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Friday 15

LIVING LEGENDS The eight members of the California-based hip-hop crew Living Legends spent a month in Maui last year recording their new album, Classic (Legendary Music). According to their Web site, it was the first time "in recent memory" they'd convened in a studio at the same time, and working in the same room seems to have put them in a reflective mood: the loping bass lines, soul vocals, and vintage horn samples on the tracks reflect the mature tone the MCs take. They're still quirky, though: on "Blast Your Radio" they name-check their inspirations, which include classic works like "Ralph and his motorcycle by Beverly Cleary." But there's nothing as irreverent (or sidesplitting) as "Addicted" from Creative Differences (2004), a too-much-information track about Internet-porn addiction. The MCs' styles vary wildly--Eligh favors introspective, abstract rhymes while Murs's delivery is brash and aggressive--but the combination of different energies is what makes their live shows so much fun. J-Live and Pigeon John open. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $19 in advance, $21 day of show, 18+. --Kabir Hamid

Saturday 16

AVENPITCH Thank Christ the success of a handful of electroclash opportunists hasn't killed off underground synth pop, the way a cockroach that makes it out into the kitchen can come back to the nest with a pellet of poisoned bait. The Minneapolis band Avenpitch splits the difference between dark, Depeche Mode-inspired synth pop and the bouncy Erasure kind, with snarly, hypercompressed guitar, grimy synth scrapes, and chesty bass on one hand and tinkling melodies and ersatz strings on the other. The vocals--usually hollered tonelessly, a la the Beastie Boys--don't fit into either slot, but this stuff depends on lyrics you can yell. "Walrus Teeth," for instance, makes bitterness sound so goofy ("I can hardly deal with the crocodile smile through walrus teeth / I don't understand what you want from me") that holding a grudge seems like fun. Too bad the band's self-titled debut, released in 2003 by local Omega Point Records, is its only full-length so far. Corporate MF headlines and Avenpitch plays third; Oly and Burton L. open. 10 PM, Lilly's, 2513 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2422, $5. --Ann Sterzinger

JOHN DOE, SARAH LEE GUTHRIE & JOHNNY IRION Keeping up with X and its assorted members has yielded diminishing returns ever since More Fun in the New World came out in 1983, so I was floored by John Doe's new solo album, Forever Hasn't Happened Yet (Yep Roc). He doesn't sound as if he's trying very hard, which may be why it's so good: it's raw and appealingly loose, and though it's steeped in the same Americana flavors that have dominated Doe's and Exene Cervenka's work since Billy Zoom left X, the new songs aren't so self-consciously cultivated. Doe's vocals are soulful and spontaneous, and though he's assisted by a raft of guests--including Dave Alvin, Grant Lee Phillips, Cindy Lee Berryhill, and Smokey Hormel--the album doesn't feel like a hodgepodge. "Hwy. 5," a punkish duet with Neko Case, recalls "Johnny Hit and Run Pauline"-era X (it was cowritten by Cervenka), but most of the songs are archetypal blues and country that Doe inhabits like a favorite pair of jeans. He's backed here by the Nick Luca Trio; Luca, a guitarist, has worked extensively with Giant Sand and Calexico.

Much has been made of Sarah Lee Guthrie's pedigree--she's Arlo's daughter and Woody's granddaughter--but on her new album with partner Johnny Irion, Exploration (New West), she sounds like the offspring of Emmylou Harris, though her tone's not quite so ethereal. In fact, the pair does a mighty good job of channeling Harris's classic duets with Gram Parsons, amid some sweet country-rock backings that recall the early Jayhawks. (Jayhawk Marc Perlman plays bass on the record and Exploration coproducer Gary Louris plays guitar.) Their chemistry is winning, but my favorite moment is when Guthrie goes it alone to sing "Mornin's Over," an ambling ballad a la Bobbie Gentry. Kevn Kinney Band opens. 9 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $15. --Peter Margasak

ELEPHANT MAN Dancehall star O'Neil Bryan, aka Elephant Man, has the standard toaster's resume: a handful of underground hits, a hyperactive, headlong delivery, and a taste for homophobic lyrics. (The title track of 2001's Log On cheerily advocates stomping on "chi chi men" like roaches, then setting them on fire.) Raised in Kingston's hellish Seaview Gardens district, Bryan came up in the late 90s with the Scare Dem Crew, a dancehall tag team led by Bounty Killer. After the crossover successes of Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder, he was poised to make the same jump, but 2003's Good 2 Go (VP) didn't quite get him to the other side. "Pon de River, Pon de Bank" made a minor splash stateside and the Lil Jon-augmented "Jook Gal" made a bigger one, but the tune most familiar to American ears is probably the completely infectious "All Out"--flavored with a whiff of electro and a touch of Men at Work's "Down Under," it was the sound track to Puma's goofy TV spots for Jamaica's 2004 Olympic relay team. Like most dancehall acts, Elephant Man is at best a one-and-a-half trick pony--but if you can overlook his psychosexual hang-ups, he's pretty irresistible. Kiprich, Junior Demus, Sista Nancy, Major Mackerel, Dub Dis, J-Self, M.E.E.K., Q-Billah, and L.O.C. open. 8 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 312-559-1212, $35. All ages. --Brian Nemtusak

OUTRAGEOUS CHERRY On its first two albums, this Detroit quartet mastered the art of the psychedelic space-rock freak-out, but for its new record, Our Love Will Change the World (Rainbow Quartz), the focus is on harmony- and organ-heavy 60s garage pop. It's nice to see a band switch gears without violating its basic aesthetic, but the new songs are too gentle for a Nuggets comp and sound more than a little reminiscent of the mellow moods of Rain Parade. The Sights headline; the Forty-Fives play third; Blackfire Revelation opens. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Monica Kendrick

Sunday 17

CAPTURED! BY ROBOTS Jason Vance, a veteran of Skankin' Pickle and the Blue Meanies and the only human in this band, has been touring for eight years now as the supposed slave of the robots he created--I'm starting to suspect there's no microchip implanted in his head after all, and that he just likes being verbally abused by uppity machines. The foulmouthed robots are works of art--the drum machines, for example, play real drums, and the newest band members are a nattily dressed trio of decapitated trumpeters whose instruments are actually clusters of air horns, like the ones you see on the cabs of tractor-trailers. This time out Vance is pushing a two-CD set that combines a "fitness" record ("Rock Hard," "Thrashersize") and a concept album loosely based on Cecil B. De Mille's Ten Commandments. Riddle of Steel and Asva open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $10, 18+. --Monica Kendrick

ELVIS COSTELLO & THE IMPOSTERS Elvis Costello has trained us not to expect much consistency from him, either in style or in quality. In 2004 he released his long-promised symphonic work, the bland Il Sogno, and the year before he put out North, a tedious art-song cycle. Luckily he's still willing to make caustic rock records like last year's The Delivery Man (Lost Highway) every now and then. Recorded with the Imposters (two-thirds of the Attractions plus Davey Farragher on bass), it's not as angry as his last good album, When I Was Cruel (2002), but it's economical and catchy. Though Nashville stylings abound--"Country Darkness" is gilded with aching pedal steel, "Heart Shaped Bruise" is a classic honky-tonk weeper with harmonies by Emmylou Harris--Costello's authorial stamp keeps this from reading as a genre study a la Almost Blue. Highlights include a great version of "Either Side of the Same Town," a soul number he and Jerry Ragovoy wrote for Howard Tate, and a storming duet with Lucinda Williams, "There's a Story in Your Voice." Sondre Lerche opens. 7:30 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress. 312-922-2110 or 312-902-1500, $27-$77. All ages. --Peter Margasak

GORCH FOCK I loved the first album by this seven-piece Austin band, but it turns out it was just a warm-up for Lying and Manipulating (Australian Cattle God), which builds their Melvins/Buttholes-inspired, all-over-the-map art punk into something that rivals the best work of their heroes. And if it lacks the righteous shock of hearing this kind of thing for the first time, that's not really Gorch Fock's fault, is it? Riffs skitter and spatter like blood on a slaughterhouse wall, creamy synth-bubbles ooze out as if from slackened jaws, and just when you're feeling most scattered and discombobulated, there's a fist-pumping, acid-rock version of Neil Young's "Ohio." Redneck Exorcist opens. 10 PM, Pontiac Cafe, 1531 N. Damen, 773-252-7767. Free. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

RADAR BROS. The Radar Bros.' sound is spacious, somnolent, studioesque, and a few other things that begin with s--or maybe with a long, languid exhale of cigarette smoke. This figures for a band that shares some history with Slint (Steve Goodfriend drummed in Brian McMahan's project the For Carnation) and some DNA with LA audio-engineering legend Bill Putnam. His son, Bros. singer-guitarist Jim Putnam, now runs his own LA studio, where the band's recorded four albums of dreamy, Crazy Horse/Pink Floyd-inspired ruminations. The songs on the latest, The Fallen Leaf Pages (Merge), find a single midtempo groove and unpack every corner of it; it's a perfect sound track for either the predawn hours after a party or the hungover, couchbound Sunday afternoon that follows. Vague Angels headline; Hanalei and Lesser Birds of Paradise open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $10. --J. Niimi

Tuesday 19

FANTOMAS, THE LOCUST Mike Patton's superhuman-sounding supergroup likes the high-concept concept album--the discography so far includes an SF comic-book album and an album of reworked movie themes--and number four, the brand-new Suspended Animation (Ipecac) is another one. It seems to have several concepts going at once, actually. The stated theme is cartoon music, but that doesn't explain the 30 short tracks named for each day of this month (track one is "04/01/05 Friday"); the limited-edition version comes with a 30-page calendar by Yoshitomo Nara that pairs each day/song with an improbable holiday (Richter Scale Day, Plan Your Epitaph Day) and a delightfully disturbing drawing. Inside, the band more than matches the packaging, spinning out new moods and allusions with dervish speed and hummingbird dexterity: moody Asian-chamber-music pastiche one second, demented Carl Stalling program music scored for death-metal arsenal the next. A lesser outfit trying this might sound like meth-addled monkeys pushing random buttons, but Fantomas wields a grounded sorcery that makes it all more than the sum of its gajillion endlessly moving parts.

Also on the bill are impish aggressors the Locust, touring behind a very short and sweet new EP--the ten-minute Safety Second, Body Last--that packs at least a few EPs' worth of sonic variety into two potent tracks. The band tosses ideas around with the reckless, spastic confidence of those who know very well there's more where those came from.

Fantomas headlines; Trevor Dunn's Trio-Convulsant plays first, then the Locust. 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $21. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

Wednesday 20

IRON & WINE The songs on Iron & Wine's new EP, Woman King (Sub Pop), recorded in Chicago by Brian Deck last August, are concerned with birth, death, and nature in a Dylan Thomas-like manner. Because Sam Beam's dark, romantic lyrics are planted amid blues tempos and slide guitars, he sometimes gets compared to Will Oldham, but I think he's pulled off a more unlikely feat: weaving together grittiness, mysticism, and whispered vocals, he's practically fused the Peter Green and Stevie Nicks eras of Fleetwood Mac. Acoustically, of course. Eric Johnson and Horses open. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, 18+, sold out. --Monica Kendrick

Thursday 21

KYLE BRUCKMANN'S WRACK Double reed virtuoso Kyle Bruckmann performs in Chicago for the first time since he moved to San Francisco in the fall of 2003, touring with his superb quintet, Wrack. On the group's eponymous album for the Red Toucan label, Bruckmann made use of the members' pedigrees in jazz and classical music; the songs were carefully plotted and tightly constructed, but also made space for extended solos. And even amid the moments of free-improv din--powered by drummer Tim Daisy--Bruckmann made sure that comparatively quiet instruments like oboe and English horn could still be heard. For this show, Bruckmann, Daisy, and the terrific violist Jen Clare Paulson will be joined by two new members, bassist Anton Hatwich and bass clarinetist Jason Stein. Bruckmann gave careful consideration to the sound and approach of each member of Wrack's original lineup; however he adapts his material for the new players, it should make for compelling listening. He'll also reconvene EKG, his duo with trumpeter and electronicist Ernst Karel, on Wednesday 5/4 at the Empty Bottle and Saturday 5/7 at the Renaissance Society. a 8:15 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages. --Peter Margasak

M83 It's impossible to tell from the cover of M83's international debut, 2003's Dead Cities, Red Sea & Lost Ghosts, if the prone figures in the snowy field are dying, tripping on E, or merely gazing at the clouds. You can hear all three scenarios in the album's chilly roar--like My Bloody Valentine with keyboards instead of guitars and feedback, as everyone in the world said when it came out. The French band, originally a duo, is now just founding member Anthony Gonzalez plus various helpers, and on the new follow-up, Before the Dawn Heals Us (Mute), his formerly all-instrumental approach is now semi-instrumental, which may or may not be an improvement. The syrupy vocals on "Farewell/Goodbye" would fit an orchid-petals-and-blood montage from an early John Woo film, while "Can't Stop" is the "Chariots of Fire II" sound track that Jeff Lynne never made. Other tunes, though, like the pounding "Fields, Shorelines and Hunters," retain the cold-blooded rush of M83's earlier material, a feeling akin to being murdered by a gang armed with canisters of compressed air. Ulrich Schnauss opens and Brad Owen spins; M83 and Schnauss return to the Bottle tomorrow night, with DJ Chris Widman. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $12. --J. Niimi

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