THE COUP, LIFESAVAS Spirit in Stone (Quannum), the 2003 release from the Portland duo LIFESAVAS, was that rare thing in hip-hop: a debut album that managed to hold up over time. Most of the credit goes to lead MC Vursatyl, a brainy wordsmith who drops outlandish lyrics like "Who cares if you can rhyme in Arabic with a Portuguese accent and change your name to Ackniculous Guggenheim? / Recorded your demo 30 below zero in the basement of a Buddhist shrine? You suck!" He's so good you nearly overlook his partner, Jumbo the Garbageman, a capable rapper but an even better producer. In style he's similar to Blackalicious's Chief Xcel, but he can be alternately ferocious and breezy as well.
Headlining the show is THE COUP, whose new single "My Favorite Mutiny" (off the forthcoming Pick a Bigger Weapon) is a thunderous, rousing call to arms. MC Boots Riley and guests Black Thought and Talib Kweli seem like they're competing to see who can dish out the deadliest verse. If they really are, Boots wins.
The Coup headlines, Lifesavas play second, and Earatik Statik opens. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $15 in advance, $18 at the door, 18+. --Kabir Hamid
THE JUAN MACLEAN John MacLean (aka the Juan Maclean) first met James Murphy, now of the production team the DFA, in the late 90s. MacLean was a member of Six Finger Satellite, Murphy was their sound man and producer, and they were both tiring of the conventional rock-band grind. MacLean retreated from music altogether after 6FS broke up, but was egged on by Murphy and his production partner, Tim Goldsworthy, to record something for the label they were starting. After a few superb singles, MacLean recently made his full-length debut with the DFA-produced Less Than Human (Astralwerks). The album has definite traces of the sociopathic junkie-cyborg aesthetic and Krautrock vibe that 6FS embraced, but their whole band-as-machine image is reversed: the Juan Maclean is techno forged from a rock impulse. You can hear it in the phonetic digital buzz standing in for a punk singer, the rubbery synth played like an electric bass on "Love Is in the Air," and the mutant Phil Collins tom bursts on "Tito's Way." LCD Soundsystem headlines, the Juan Maclean plays second, and Shit Robot opens. a 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $19.50 in advance, $22.50 at the door, 18+. --J. Niimi
31KNOTS When I was a young sprout I loved it when my mom made those little cocktail wieners, until the day I discovered what was in the special sauce she served them with: chili sauce and (gulp) grape jelly. Recently I had a similar revelation about the band 31Knots, a band I'd always liked: they're "emo-prog," the overwrought style exemplified by groups like Joan of Arc, and one I usually can't stomach. It didn't strike me that this is how a finicky kid might pigeonhole them until their third and most recent CD, Talk Like Blood (Polyvinyl)--maybe song titles like "A Void Employs a Kiss" gave it away--but I'd probably never noticed because they always manage to keep the prog parts interesting and the emo parts in check. The Planet The, the Get Hustle, and Green Milk From the Planet Orange open. 10 PM, the Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-0011, $8. --J. Niimi
TRAVELING BELL A writer at milesofmusic.com recently argued that Traveling Bell's Scatter Ways (Secret Eye) sounds like Brigitte Fontaine fronting Current 93, a comparison that's not too far off. But as a songwriter, Kathleen Baird doesn't have the ADD issues that sometimes plague Current 93; each intricate song on her solo debut locks into focus and stays there, building hypnotically from wandering guitar filigrees and fairy-light percussion. She creates a sternly sustained kind of dreaminess--the proverbial fist in the velvet glove. Goldblood headlines, Spires That in the Sunset Rise (which Baird plays in) goes on third, Traveling Bell plays second, and Milo Jones opens. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $8. --Monica Kendrick
CHRIS FULLER A few years back Chicago musician and sound artist Chris Fuller, who used to play guitar and sing in the postpunk bands Dis- and Sixto, composed a "plunderphonic" sound track to F.W. Murnau's 1922 silent Nosferatu, assembling his score entirely from more than a dozen other vampire movies. Aside from sounding like a fun project, it's also a postmodern commentary on the circumstances surrounding the film. Its creators were sued by Bram Stoker's estate for ripping off Dracula, and all existing prints were ordered destroyed by a German court. Fuller accompanies the film for the second year in a row as part of Culture of Fear, a multimedia Halloween event. Notes and Scratches, DJs C. Israel Vines and Mark Battista, and Annie Coleman open. 7:30 PM, Open End Gallery, 2000 W. Fulton, 312-738-2140, $6. All ages. --J. Niimi
JESSICA RYLAN While many electronic and noise-music artists embrace the coldness of their equipment, sound artist Jessica Rylan works to find the organic qualities in them. Her aesthetic is appealingly homespun, from the analog synthesizers she designs and builds herself to the packaging of her releases. The recent New Secret (RRRecords), released under her Can't moniker, is a picture disc that includes photos of her garden, a dog frolicking in a New Hampshire field, and her making pies with her friends. But her music isn't touchy-feely or hippie-ish, even when she coos little vocal melodies that sound like a child's spontaneous singing; her "songs" are wrapped in splattery feedback and analog squelches that ripple as if only slightly disturbed by a mild breeze. She doesn't sing on a recent split CD with 2673 on Kitty Play Records, concentrating instead on synth manipulations that produce low-end throbs, stuttering static bursts, storm-cloud rumble, and the occasional aural whiteout. Here she'll be playing what she calls her natural synth, which she recently described in an interview as producing sounds "more like a plant--more wavery sounds and swishes, and there are time frames that you kind of hear in the world, burbling water, whatever." 9 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago, 773-227-3617, $12. All ages. --Peter Margasak
DEVENDRA BANHART, BUNNYBRAINS It must be hard to be in the same band for 17 years and never really get better, but somehow BUNNYBRAINS front man Dan Bunny has kept the, uh, "purity" of a 16-year-old who's just figured out that a guitar makes sound. A messiah of noise music, he goes so far back people weren't even calling it noise music when he started--they just called it annoying. In 1995 Matador released one album for the group, supposedly on a dare; now you can find that and more on an extravagant four-CD box set, Box the Bunny (Narnack), which also includes unreleased muck and a DVD of live footage. Bunny has recently resurfaced from his hole after parting ways with cofounders Bobby Bunny and Malcolm Tent--who started a rival group using the same name, hilariously enough--and is playing with a core group of four on what he says is "the first tour I've ever accomplished." They're still cranking out the stoner chain-saw guitar, poopy-pants bass, sticks-are-too-heavy drumming, and warbled vocals. Plus, everything is run through pedals! Lots and lots of pedals! And the stage show includes fake blood, nudity, furry costumes, and wrestling. Either you get it or you don't. --Liz Armstrong
DEVENDRA BANHART takes his pan-ethnic and deeply fey sound out on yet another limb on Cripple Crow (XL), his newest release and the first recorded with a large supporting cast. While it doesn't quite have the focus of his solo recordings on Young God, it makes up for it by skittering across more genres, from country to glam pop to Mexican folk. And though in some ways he's a bit like the second coming of Donovan--in his singing, his sense of melody, and his whole silly mystical aesthetic--nobody ever listened to Donovan for his guitar playing. Banhart you might. --Monica Kendrick
Devendra Banhart & the Hairy Fairy Band headline, Bunnybrains open. 9:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15 in advance, $18 at the door. All ages.
KENNY BARRON TRIO After nearly three decades as the quintessential sideman--for the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, and Yusef Lateef, no less--pianist Kenny Barron began in the 90s to focus on recording as a leader, and so finally claimed his place among jazz's elite. Rooted in the bop basics of players like Bud Powell and Tommy Flanagan, he's demonstrated a rare flexibility over the last decade and a half, working effortlessly with Brazilian musicians, exploring electric settings, and playing intimate duets. But nothing suits Barron better than the straight-ahead trio format, where he's a master of turning standards inside out. On the new The Perfect Set: Live at Bradley's II (Sunnyside), recorded at a 1996 club gig, he dissects both originals and Monk tunes with deceptive simplicity, running melodies through a battery of rhythmic variations or using them as raw material for broad stylistic references. Thanks to his exquisite touch and elegant sense of swing, Barron's envelope pushing can be wonderfully subversive--he'll be well into his next idea by the time you notice there was something a bit sideways about that last one. Two longtime associates, Ben Riley and bassist Buster Williams, join him for this stand, which continues through the weekend; see also Wednesday and Thursday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20. --Peter Margasak
KENNY BARRON TRIO See Tuesday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20.
NICKEL CREEK I've previously dismissed this California trio for tweaking its bluegrass sensibilities to appeal to the jam-band crowd, but on its terrific new album, Why Should the Fire Die? (Sugar Hill), they're not compromising anything--they just don't want to be hemmed in by anybody's notions about authenticity. Throughout the record the members of the group--mandolinist Chris Thile, guitarist Sean Watkins, and fiddle player Sara Watkins, with guest bassist Mark Schatz--use the techniques and instrumentation of bluegrass to create a winning, impeccably crafted amalgam of folk rock and acoustic pop. The three core members are terrific singers, and their excellent harmonies have none of the antiseptic perfectionism so common in modern bluegrass. Though they sometimes embrace a romantic mopeyness that's fit for a sound track to The OC ("Can't Complain"), their playing is too sharp and their vocals have too much edge to let the songs go slack. They show off their chops on the instrumental "Scotch & Chocolate," but the song's concision and snap are miles away from jam-band noodling. The Ditty Bops open. 7 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $26. All ages. --Peter Margasak
OPETH These Swedes have always loved to wriggle through classifications, and sometimes even seem hell-bent on outsmarting themselves: their 2002 and '03 releases, Deliverance (the evil, heavy one, to oversimplify) and Damnation (the delicate, pretty one) broke their sound in two. But on the new Ghost Reveries (Roadrunner), the first album they've made in years without Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree producing, they draw both sounds together again, like some kind of giant jumping spider gathering its legs in for a leap. Their mining-blast explosive heavy side interlaces with their feathery light one more effectively than it has since Blackwater Park, and "Atonement" condenses it all into a sort of gorgeous aural manifesto. Nevermore and Fireball Ministry open. 6:30 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $17 in advance, $19 at the door. All ages. --Monica Kendrick
KENNY BARRON TRIO See Tuesday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20.
MARAH On their fifth album, If You Didn't Laugh You'd Cry (Yep Roc), these anointed New Yorkers--Nick Hornby and Bruce Springsteen both approve--aim to sound a bit less like spokespeople of their generation and a little more like a sloppy bar band. The decision to record the album live in the studio might have worked out better if they had a little more Replacements in them, but as it is there's a blustery, boozy infectiousness you can't help but warm up to, even if you'll hate yourself in the morning. "City of Dreams" in particular is so genuinely lovely in its straightforward triteness you just want to pat their little puppy-dog heads. Hushdrops and Kieran McGee open. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $12, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
OH MY GOD This local trio hasn't gotten as far as I figured it would: I thought there would be a large and eager audience for the giddy, lusty, thick-organed glam pop of last year's self-released You're Too Straight to Love Me. (They call it an EP. It has eight songs, so I don't.) The band split up in the spring, but a promoter urged them to get back together for a tour of the UK earlier this month, and they're now working on new material. Vaux plays third, 3-2-1 Activate! plays second, and Letters Organize opens. 8:30 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $10. --Monica Kendrick
UP-TIGHT As the title suggests, Up-Tight & Makoto Kawabata (on local label Galactic Zoo Disc, a principality of Steve Krakow's psychedelic empire) is a collaboration between the leader of Acid Mothers Temple and the 13-year-old Japanese trio Up-Tight. There are more than a few up-front early-Velvets elements (starting with the title and cover, both lifted from The Velvet Underground & Nico), but it's certainly not slavish. Instead it sounds like VU if they'd never bothered with pop songs at all and gone with a droning, Fluxus approach by way of primal scream therapy. But it also branches out into grandly meditative passages, with shamanistic chanting and hypnotic repetition, and at its best--"Rainy Day Girl #12 & 35," for example--the album develops a stark and otherworldly beauty. Up-Tight headlines, Plastic Crimewave Sound plays second, and Dark Fog opens. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Monica Kendrick