AUKTYON This Saint Petersburg eight-piece has been playing together in something like its current form since the mid-80s, and I can't imagine the typical capitalist gets it any more than the Soviet bureaucrats did. Nevertheless, the band's augmented its devoted Russian fan base with an auxiliary chapter in Portland won over by a roof-rocking North by Northwest appearance in 2000, and it's well established on the European art-rock circuit. If one wanted, one could place these guys alongside Prague's late, lamented Plastic People of the Universe in a pan-Slavic tradition of wild-ass pre-perestroika hairiness. But really, the profligate frenzy of Auktyon--very high-energy, very strangely arranged, very globally crossbred and sweatily choreographed--belongs in its own category. 9 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494 or 800-594-8499, $35 in advance, $45 at the door. --Monica Kendrick
THE EXPLOSION Black Tape (Virgin), the major-label debut by this Boston quintet, is stuffed with guitar-pick slides, gang-chorus vocals, and lots of accusations against that catchall receptor of three-chord vitriol: "you." Is Matt Hock singing about his prodigal punk rock gal or Attorney General Alberto Gonzales? He doesn't seem particularly interested in figuring it out, and if you aren't either, Black Tape makes for plenty good head-noddin'. It's beefier and shinier than their two indie albums, with fewer neck-snappers and more nods toward the meat-and-potatoes bar-punk of the Del Fuegos or Soul Asylum. These guys are struggling to figure out how to keep their pop hooks from getting stomped in the pit, and though the execution is kind of lopsided, listening to their attempts to make it work is kind of a kick. The Matics open, the Loved Ones play second, and Throw Rag plays third. 6 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $10. All ages. --J. Niimi
AL GREEN The Reverend Al Green's latest, Everything's OK (Blue Note), proves that I Can't Stop, his much-ballyhooed 2003 reunion with Hi Records producer Willie Mitchell, was no fluke. Though neither of these two secular comeback outings match his Hi highs, they confirm that he's still got it in the studio. He's still got it live, too, but the last time I saw him onstage, he too often seemed content to sing the first few lines of his old hits and then let the crowd deliver the rest. The communal lovefest is nice, but I want to hear Green sing; a repertoire of new songs that hasn't become ingrained in the audience's memory should guarantee he'll perform at least some numbers start to finish. See also Saturday. Raul Midon opens. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $65.
NINE INCH NAILS, DRESDEN DOLLS On the surface this bill makes sense--after all, both bands' fan bases include a large contingent of pale white kids dressed in black. But the longer you think about it, the less natural the pairing seems: Trent Reznor's grim, tense postindustrial defoliant alongside the sensual, harrowing goth cabaret of up-and-coming Boston duo the Dresden Dolls, who seem cheerfully determined to turn their every gesture into a glammy, hyperliterate neo-Weimar genderfuck. (Roadrunner has reissued the band's self-titled 2003 debut just in time for this tour.) All the same, I give Reznor major props for the choice. I don't expect his music to surprise me anymore, and he never needs another hit record as long as he lives (though he'll probably have several--starting with the single "The Hand That Feeds," from the brand-new With Teeth). But if you judge a man by the company he keeps, he's starting to look like a lot more fun. See also Saturday. 7:30 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages. --Monica Kendrick
AACM 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) marks its 40th anniversary this weekend and next with a slew of ad hoc groupings featuring members from all its generations. Today the Cultural Center hosts the AACM Experimental Chamber Ensemble, featuring second-wave regulars like Edward Wilkerson, Mwata Bowden, and Douglas Ewart, along with flutist Nicole Mitchell, the brightest new light in the organization. A full rundown of festivities is at www.aacmchicago.org. See also Sunday. 2 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630 or 312-922-1900. Free. All ages. --Peter Margasak
ADULT. Since 1995 husband and wife Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus have run the Detroit-based label Ersatz Audio, releasing records by local celebrity Magas, among others. But they put out D.U.M.E., a new EP by their own band, Adult., on Thrill Jockey, perhaps to escape the ghetto they helped build. They've vented in the press about being lumped in with 80s synth revivalists, and I can't really blame them: their lovingly home-crafted electronic sound is darker, richer, tenser, and less dance oriented. But you can dance to, say, "D.U.M.E." or "Get Me Out" if you channel the right kind of alienated-paranoid-frustrated vibe, and Kuperus's passionate, slashing vocals are beautifully challenging in a way that's reminiscent of early Siouxsie and Debora Iyall. Gold Chains & Sue Cie and the Genders open. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $12. --Monica Kendrick
DUHKS These five young Winnipeggers sound like they've indiscriminately mished and mashed every bit of contemporary folk you've heard on NPR in the last five years. The 14 tracks on their self-titled Sugar Hill debut bounce around like bumper cars named "gospel blues," "Appalachian string band," "cinematic Irish," "French-Canadian-Cajun dance music"--and, oh yeah, "folk pop." They're more than technically skilled enough to pull it off, but part of me wants them to commit to something beyond their gift for synthesis. Even if it's pop covers: unsurprisingly, Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows," which they give a barroom feel, works better than their take on Sting's "Love Is the Seventh Wave." 10 PM, FitzGerald's SideBar, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $10. --Monica Kendrick
AL GREEN See Friday. Raul Midon opens. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $65.
MALCOLM HOLCOMBE This North Carolina singer-songwriter stunned a lot of people (including himself, he's said) by scoring a four-star review in Rolling Stone for his 1999 de facto debut, A Hundred Lies (Hip-O/Universal). No surprise to me once I put it on: however long and checkered the past that led up to it (Holcombe was nearly 44 years old when it came out), the album has the assuredness of a fully realized major talent popping up completely ready to take on the world, like Athena out of some unimaginable forehead. His latest, I Never Heard You Knockin', is simpler, more straightforward, and yet even richer: a moaning, bellowing, crooning sort of mountain country blues from an archetypal voice you could swear you grew up hearing. Abe Quigley opens. a 9 PM, Heartland Cafe, 7000 N. Glenwood, 773-465-8005, $7. All ages. --Monica Kendrick
NINE INCH NAILS, DRESDEN DOLLS See Friday. 7:30 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages.
AACM 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION See Saturday. A full slate of events begins at 2 PM with a panel discussion, followed at 4 PM with a performance by students of the AACM School; both events are free and all-ages. The evening concert features seven groups, including 8 Bold Souls with Fred Anderson, Nicole Mitchell's superb Black Earth Ensemble with guest flutist James Newton and vocalist Dee Alexander, and a first-time duo of vocalist Ann Ward and the brilliant trombonist George Lewis, whose widely anticipated AACM history is slated for publication next year. The evening closes with a set by the Great Black Music Ensemble, an orchestra drawing together many of the participants in this series of celebrations, featuring Joseph Jarman of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and saxophonist Oliver Lake. A full rundown of festivities is at www.aacmchicago.org. a 7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010 or 312-922-1900, $16-$20. All ages. --Peter Margasak
CHARMING SNAKES Congratulations, Charming Snakes: you're the millionth band to cover the Undertones' "Teenage Kicks," and you don't win a damn thing. I just saw the real deal, and even if the pope formed a quartet with the Holy Trinity he couldn't touch those guys on their home turf. Not that I think it's fair to compare these Seattle punk upstarts to the Undertones, even if they're begging for it--the rest of their debut LP, Ammunition (Dirtnap), does its own thing. (And technically the "cover" is just one verse stuck into a track called "Teenage Kut Out.") I like the sound of the record--evil, fuzzed-up bass and angular guitar, Mark E. Smith-inspired vocals, and urgent thumps and thwaps that, thanks to the grotty production, aren't always obviously drums--better than I like the songs, which don't tend to do much but circle menacingly. It's kick-ass background noise, though, and I bet it's a lot easier to get sucked in at a show. The Sun headlines; the Rolling Blackouts play second. 8:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. --Ann Sterzinger
STEREOPHONICS Language. Sex. Violence. Other? (V2), the fifth album from this big-rocking, slightly glammy Welsh trio, is tailor-made for iPods, radio, and other quasi-randomizers. Pop pleasures like the boiling "Superman" and "Rewind," with its U2-by-the-campfire sway, are best enjoyed when they take you by surprise, not when you're waiting for the next overly rich chunk of sweet husky overkill. Augustana opens. 7:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $18.50. All ages. --Monica Kendrick
BLOOD BROTHERS, THE PLOT TO BLOW UP THE EIFFEL TOWER Listening to Crimes (V2), the Blood Brothers' fourth album, is like leaping back and forth naked between a sauna and a snowbank. The Seattle quintet is as aggressive and restless as ever, but it's tempered its screechy, caffeinated aural vengeance with some not-jazz, a little grim romance, and just enough dark pop to be even more gloriously sadistic. Yet somehow, the record has soul. Playing second is the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower (who surely top the list of bands that should never play on a bill with I Am the World Trade Center). On its latest album, Love in the Fascist Brothel (Revelation), the San Diego quartet continues its flirtation with Nazi kitsch on the tracks "Reich Stag Rock" and "Lipstick SS." Songs like those, combined with the band's affinity for wearing black shirts and red armbands onstage, have unnerved folks in Europe; around here such imagery takes on a little more resonance with each passing day, which is part of the band's point. These issues aside, their sax-driven sound is ambitious, rich, and fearsome. Big Business opens. 6:30 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $9 in advance, $11 at the door. All ages. --Monica Kendrick
QUEEN MAB TRIO Pianist Marilyn Lerner and clarinetist Lori Freedman worked together for nearly a decade as the Canadian duo Queen Mab, bringing a bracing style of improvisation to quasi-classical compositions. In 2002 they became a trio with the addition of Dutch violist Ig Henneman; See Saw (Wig), this lineup's first full-length, was inspired by Berlioz's "Queen Mab Scherzo" from Romeo et Juliette, but you don't need to know that to appreciate their keenly intuitive playing. All three zip in and out of monolithic dirges and brief lyric passages, expanding on the compositions with generous improvisations that make great use of extended technique, whether it's Lerner mucking around inside the piano or Henneman eliciting ungodly scrapes and screeches from her viola. Freedman has a fluid, full-bodied tone on both regular and bass clarinet, but she's at her best when she uncorks choppy, astringent honks and squeals that stand in stark contrast to her soothing legato parts. The trio's ideas arrive in a constant stream, but the music never sounds cluttered or rushed. This show is the group's Chicago debut. 8:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $12, $10 for students. --Peter Margasak
RAVEONETTES Sune Rose Wagner, cofounder of this perennially brokenhearted Danish band, was far from his cache of distortion pedals when he wrote the songs on the brand-new Pretty in Black (Columbia). He'd fallen in love with the clean reverb sound of an amp he'd bought on the road, and on the new album he's peeled back the layers of Jesus & Mary Chain guitar scuzz that dominated Whip It On and Chain Gang of Love, two barrages of fuzz-rock written entirely in B-flat minor and B-flat major with no song exceeding three chords or three minutes. It sounds like the Raveonettes are stretching out after that self-imposed confinement, with a lineup that's grown to five and studio guests including Ronnie Spector and Mo Tucker. Pretty in Black foregrounds the bittersweet Everly Brothers harmonies of Wagner and cofounder Sharin Foo and the dreamy, aching throb of the band's reconstructed rockabilly--after those first two discs, the effect is like cutting from the game of hot-rod chicken in a 50s teensploitation flick straight to the boyfriend-in-a-coma scene. Autolux and the Peels open. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $14. --J. Niimi
ERIC HOFBAUER American Vanity (CNM Productions), the first solo CD by guitarist Eric Hofbauer, could've been a fine album of jazz standards. His renditions of tunes by Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus are by turns eloquent and earthy, and the tart tone he plucks from his effects-free hollow-bodied acoustic Guild is thoroughly in the jazz tradition. But the Boston-based musician had something else in mind in making the record: he wanted to confront and embrace the hubris and hollowness he sees at the core of America's national character. He vents his spleen about Yankee consumerism by playing two Christmas tunes in two keys at the same time on "Ode to Little Drummer Joy" and imparts a complex blend of cheeriness and dread by juxtaposing dancing harmonics and a foreboding bass line on "Coke (for Our Addicts)." But he also finds some pleasure in the heart of darkness: there's a lot of soul in his version of the Dukes of Hazzard theme. The Dan Phillips Trio opens. 9:30 PM, 3030, 3030 W. Cortland, 773-862-3616, $5-$10 suggested donation. All ages. --Bill Meyer