BEN ALLISON QUARTET If an album made in 2006 called Cowboy Justice were to sound to you like it might have a political slant, you'd be right: in the liner notes bassist and bandleader Ben Allison explains that "Tricky Dick" is about the vice president and "Emergency" addresses the administration's response to 9/11. Though no explicit sentiments come through in the music--this is instrumental jazz, after all--it certainly conveys directness and urgency. The band here is smaller than Allison's other projects--just drummer Jeff Ballard, trumpeter Ron Horton, and guitarist Steve Cardenas, all now part of a working quartet--and the tidy performances snap with a rocklike concision. As a composer, Allison pairs elaborate, often emotional melodies with briskly moving grooves; Horton gets most of the soloing space, but it's a real joy to hear this rhythm section bring even the simplest ideas to life. See also Saturday. a 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12. --Peter Margasak
cclipse I could probably spend three or four hours at urbandictionary.com looking up all the street slang on Hell Hath No Fury (Re-Up Gang/Star Trak/Jive), the astonishing second album from this Virginia duo, but that doesn't mean I can't tell what Malice and Pusha T are talking about. The record's a conflicted trip into the drug-dealing life, with the brothers' paranoia and pride rendered in consistently vivid narratives with a flow that's equally rhythmic and melodic. Aside from copping to the occasional nightmare, they never suggest they're uncomfortable pushing cocaine, but read between the lines and on almost every song you can picture them nervously turning around, afraid of what might be catching up with them. A big part of the record's brilliance is the production job by the Neptunes, whose trademark dry, digital snap highlights the rhymes rather than elbowing into the foreground: on the hyperminimal "Mr. Me Too" a simple tambourine shake creates a dramatic break, and the punishing "Wamp Wamp (What It Do)" gets its juice from steel-drum samples. But ultimately it's the rapping that makes this the best hip-hop album of 2006. Low B, Diplo's partner in Hollertronix, opens. a 11:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $25, $21 in advance, 18+. --Peter Margasak
BEN ALLISON quartet See Friday. a 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12.
will hoge Nashvillian Will Hoge has an absurd studio-record-to-live-record ratio--the new Again Somewhere Tomorrow gives the live albums a 4-to-3 lead--but that's actually not an illogical approach for him. He writes precisely the kind of rootsy, maudlin songs that sound great in front of a beery crowd but in the studio always end up polished to an oily gleam that does them no favors. The Bottle Rockets and the Alternate Routes open. a 8:30 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $15.
cholmes brothers The Holmes Brothers kick off their latest, State of Grace (Alligator), with a slyly camouflaged nod to their roots. "Smiling Face Hiding a Weeping Heart," despite its rock-tinged arrangement, invokes Al Green: the meandering melody, the deceptively boxy funk cadence, the smoldering tension between carnal and spiritual. But Green, torn between his calling and his desires, often sounded wracked with anguish; the Holmes Brothers, no less bold in mixing the sacred and the secular, imbue everything they touch with fearless enthusiasm, from the lascivious "Gasoline Drawers" to the haunting dirge "I've Just Seen the Rock of Ages." Their take on Lyle Lovett's "God Will" succeeds as both a cuckold's kiss-off and a penitent's prayer, in effect bringing soul music full circle a good 50 years after Sam Cooke first scandalized the gospel world by crossing over into R & B. a 9:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $15. --David Whiteis
cjason kahn & jon mueller Both Jason Kahn and Jon Mueller are percussionists first and foremost, but they're concerned less with the impact of sticks on drumheads than with what happens after the sound leaves the instrument. There's only one stark snare crack on their new Supershells (Formed), recorded in concert 16 months ago at Milwaukee's Hotcakes Gallery--for the rest of the album they pile up metallic reverberations and piercing electronic tones that expand until they seem to press against a wall, creating a feeling of confinement that gives a palpable sense of the room's lively acoustics. Kahn pumps the output from an analog synth into the body of a snare drum, then covers and uncovers its head with loose cymbals to alter the shape of the noise; Mueller plays a more conventional setup, but augments his scrapes and washes with cassettes so that it's hard to tell which sounds are live. Like the music on Supershells, the seven untitled tracks on Kahn's solo album Fields, recently released on his own Cut label, also need space--and volume--to come alive. Played quietly, their smears of shortwave static and lightly tapped cymbals are an indistinct blur, but if you turn up your stereo the sound unfolds into myriads of finely etched abrasions, subliminal whistles, and gut-jiggling resonations--there are even a few good old-fashioned impacts. Tonight's concert kicks off Kahn and Mueller's nine-date tour of the eastern United States; Haptic opens, joined by French guitarist Sylvain Chauveau. Kahn also contributed a piece to "GeoPhonoBox," a sound-art exhibit at Around the Coyote, 1935 1/2 W. North; the gallery hosts an opening reception at 7 PM on Friday, March 2, and the exhibit will be up till March 28. a 9 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, 773-772-3616, $7 suggested donation. A --Bill Meyer
MOLTO AMORE: A SALUT! TO SILKWORM The long-lived indie band Silkworm went on permanent hiatus, Led Zep-style, after the infamous July 2005 car crash that took the life of drummer Michael Dahlquist: they made a drumless farewell appearance at the Touch and Go 25th anniversary festival and released an EP of their last recordings (plus Dahlquist singing a Dylan cover), but that was all. Amid this closure, in August longtime fan Isaac Turner put out An Idiot to Not Appreciate Your Time, a Silkworm tribute album he'd planned for years. This show brings together contributors to that disc and other Silkworm admirers: the roster includes Chris Brokaw, late of Come and now a solo artist and sideman to friends (he's about to embark on a European tour with Eleventh Dream Day); the evening's organizer, former Dahlquist collaborator and Built to Spill housemate Joe Sepi with his new eponymous band; and the Bloomington three-piece Push-Pull. The evening begins with an "extended trailer" for a Silkworm documentary now in progress, for which tonight's performances will be filmed. The bill, top to bottom: Chris Brokaw, .22, Century Rocket Building, Joe Sepi, Push-Pull, the Asunders, the Kyle Sowashes, and the Chrome Robes, with various guests sitting in throughout. a 7 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10, $8 in advance. --Monica Kendrick
the narrator If this local quartet actually had its own narrator--someone like that stern fellow who does voice-overs for movie trailers--he'd probably say something like, "In a postpunk world . . . in a time when Keith Levene's guitar playing ruled over all . . . one band, who worshipped Steve Winwood, stood tall." On the forthcoming All That to the Wall (Flameshovel), the Narrator's avowed Winwood influence is filtered through nervously strummy guitar rock with melodic, snot-nosed vocals a la the Oxford Collapse (whose drummer fills in on half the record). The end result is a host of snappy, dynamic tunes, including "Panic at Puppy Beach," "SurfJew," and a confident remake of Dylan's "All the Tired Horses." Love of Diagrams headlines. a 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. --J. Niimi
cuncle earl, jim lauderdale On their forthcoming second album, Waterloo, Tennessee (Rounder), all-female string band UNCLE EARL deftly juggle a variety of American rural-music forms while tossing aside common preconceptions about each. They bring sweetness to old-timey classics, gnawing intensity to singer-songwriter fare, restraint to bluegrass, and soul to contemporary folk tunes. A number of guest musicians step in to help flesh out the group's sharp, driving arrangements--including Gillian Welch on drums and John Paul Jones, the album's producer, on bass and piano--but the album hinges on the precise interplay of the core members' acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and banjo. And though all four take turns singing lead, the moments when they harmonize are the real draw.
JIM LAUDERDALE churns out catchy tunes like a machine: his songs have been hits for the likes of George Strait, Mark Chesnutt, and the Dixie Chicks. He's also a fine performer, but as a recording artist he's been a phenomenal flop. That doesn't mean he hasn't been prolific--after parting ways with RCA in 1999, he put out seven albums on four independent labels over the next five years. Then he hooked up with Yep Roc, who last September showed the kind of faith in him no major would ever show, releasing two new full-lengths simultaneously: Bluegrass and Country Super Hits, Vol. 1. As the titles suggest, one is devoted to bluegrass, the other to mainstream honky-tonk, but as Lauderdale states in the press materials, "The bluegrass stuff could be cut by a country artist, and vice versa. To me, a good song is a good song, no matter how you do it." As usual his arrangements favor instrumental countermelodies and unconventional phrasing, but even when he drops a formulaic 70s-era tear-in-my-beer ballad like "I Met Jesus in a Bar" he shows no sign of rust.
Uncle Earl headline and Jim Lauderdale opens. a 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $20, $16 kids and seniors. A
cminsk These locals attracted a lot of attention with their full-length debut, 2005's Out of a Center Which Is Neither Dead nor Alive, released on the little At a Loss label, and even before the CD presses had cooled off they were snapped up by Relapse Records. On the new follow-up, The Ritual Fires of Abandonment, producer Sanford Parker, who joined the band as a bassist during the Center sessions, is clearly settling in, and though Minsk subtly enrich their complex sound, they stick to the same diabolically simple formula they used to create it: a combination of doom metal with spacefaring psychedelia and a bit of rusty old-school darkwave. It's most effective when they render it as a sort of tribal trance music, the rolling drums and circular riffing slowed down just a little past the point that's comfortable for a human metabolism. The songs have soaring, vaulted structures, and though it takes them a little while to get airborne--I picture one of those gigantic Argentinean teratorns--they can stay aloft for what feels like forever. "Embers," with its incantatory thrumming, and "White Wings," with its graceful lift, marry metal's brutality to a tantalizingly romantic occultism. This show is a benefit for Sweet Cobra, who play second; they crashed their van in January, and because their insurance had expired they're left with a lot of bills to pay. Minsk opens and Pelican headlines. a 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $15. --Monica Kendrick
cclinic British art-rock bands usually get more populist with each record, and sure enough, both this Liverpool quartet's 2002 breakout album, Walking With Thee, and 2004's Winchester Cathedral were more accessible than its debut. But Clinic's fourth full-length, Visitations (Domino), diverges from that trajectory, moving away from experimental pop and toward darker, rawer soundscapes that recall the distorted drone-and-dirge of White Light/White Heat and Unknown Pleasures. The album hollows out a bleak, cavernous space with tracks like "Animal/Human" and "Family," which builds from a snaky guitar line and an apocalyptic tribal rhythm to a dramatic denouement that sounds like a bass drum full of gasoline being detonated. (We seem to hear the clattering aftermath through mikes blown right out of their stands, swinging limply from their cords.) But despite the generally sinister feel of the disc, there's a satisfying amount of diversity too--the outliers range from the barn-burning "Tusk" to the pensive, slinky "Paradise." Each song builds on the mood of the previous one, making for an album that rewards listeners who'll stay with it from beginning to end. a 7 PM, Apple Store, 679 N. Michigan, 312-981-4104. F A --J. Niimi
cpogues Considering Shane MacGowan's acrimonious split with the Pogues in 1991--he either quit or got sacked, depending on who you ask--this is one reunion a lot of people thought would never happen. Then again, who thought MacGowan would outlive the man who temporarily replaced him, Joe Strummer? His grip on this mortal coil has always been tenuous, a state obvious to anyone who's ever caught a glimpse of his infamous teeth and cockeyed stance or watched him struggle to remember his own lyrics. But MacGowan is someone willing to prove himself with miracles again and again. His songs, devastatingly incisive and beautiful, are never shaky, never stumbly, and always show up for work. And with bigger crowds turning out to hear them now than ever before, it's clear they've achieved something MacGowan never will: immortality. Remastered editions of the first five Pogues albums--long out of print in the U.S.--were released back in the fall; if you somehow missed out on possibly the greatest songwriter of the 80s, they're the perfect way to get up to speed. Girl in a Coma opens. See also Tuesday. a 7 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 312-752-6601 or 312-559-1212, $50. A --Monica Kendrick
cdalek Hip-hop isn't a genre many people associate with austere beauty and ominous tranquility, but Dalek's brand-new fourth album, Abandoned Language (Ipecac), positively glistens with both. On Absence and From the Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots the group seemed driven by a sort of restless and ravenous need to absorb as many compelling sounds as possible--most notably distorted guitars, massed into gritty clouds or luminous choruses--and then spit them back out in a dizzying array of recombined shapes. Sometimes things went by entirely too fast, leaving you dazzled and slightly benumbed. But Abandoned Language doesn't rely on that sort of overload: Dalek cut way back on the guitars and commit to a single set of tactics all the way through. Slinky, sinister, and thick as a python's coils, their tracks create a sound world that's just dense and claustrophobic enough to make each wicked sonic flourish or calmly declaimed line of paranoid poetry pulse outward like ripples in a frigid pool--the new restraint in the music leaves your senses heightened, not battered. Destructo Swarmbots and the Timeout Drawer open. a 9 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $10, $8 in advance, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
ceighth blackbird The six members of Eighth Blackbird have been called athlete-poets, and their energy and precision are amazing--rhythm is to the group what wind is to a kite. One of the pleasures of a live concert is seeing how they produce the sounds that stretch the capabilities of their instruments (piano, percussion, violin/viola, cello, flute, and clarinet). Much of their repertoire was written for them, and they're so in harmony with the music, often playing from memory, that it's hard to imagine anyone else performing it. This program consists of six works, including two from their latest CD, Strange Imaginary Animals: Steven Mackey's Indigenous Instruments, a collage of conversing instruments that he describes as vernacular music from a culture that doesn't exist, and Gordon Fitzell's Violence, an edgy exploration of what he calls "aesthetic violence." The concert ends with Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez's Luciernagas ("Fireflies"), inspired by the story of reporters arriving at an El Salvadoran village where a massacre had occurred. Urgently recommended, even to those uneasy with new music. a 7:30 PM, Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan, room 745, 312-341-3780. F --Steve Langendorf
el perro del mar El Perro del Mar is the musical identity of native Swede Sarah Assbring (who wisely decided not to go by her surname). Her self-titled full-length debut, released last year on Memphis Industries (home to the Go! Team, the Pipettes, and Tokyo Police Club), is a Scandi-pop masterwork, channeling Bacharach, Wilson, and Spector in equal measure. Although the opener, "Candy," with its cheeky call-and-response refrain of "I'm going for to buy me some candy / She's going for to buy her some candy," is a bit, uh, saccharine, gorgeous songs like "Party" and "I Can't Talk About It," with their seamlessly orchestrated strings, jaunty hand claps, and ethereal vocal harmonies, connect in timeless AM radio fashion. The Submarines open. a 8 PM, Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, 773-472-3492 or 773-276-3600, $12. A --J. Niimi
cpogues See Monday. Girl in a Coma opens.
a 7 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 312-752-6601 or 312-559-1212, $50. A
cJORGE DREXLER Winning a best-song Oscar--for "Al Otra Lado del Rio," from The Motorcycle Diaries, in 2005--doesn't seem to have convinced this Uruguayan pop singer and songwriter that he ought to start playing to a bigger crowd. The terrific new 12 Segundos de Oscuridad (Warner Latina) retains all the hooky intimacy of its predecessors: Drexler's sweet voice rarely rises above a conversational volume, as if he's relating his tales of failed love and fervent desire from across a kitchen table. This wonderfully personal feel pervades the arrangements, which are packed with rich details--a tactile synthesizer sniggle, an underwater electronic beat--and the instrumental sections sustain the vocals' flow with gorgeous countermelodies. Among the originals is "Disneylandia," a biting take on globalization by Brazil's Arnaldo Antunes; elsewhere another Brazilian, Maria Rita (who covered a Drexler tune on her last album), appears for a duet. Besides a version of Radiohead's "High and Dry," the whole album is sung in Spanish; it'd be a shame if this kept Drexler from transcending his movie-trivia status in the States. a 8:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $25. --Peter Margasak
trentalange Barbara Trentalange is clearly hung up on melodrama: the title of her debut is Photo Album of Complex Relationships (Coco Tauro), and the accompanying cover art is a misty shot of a woman with her hands tied behind her back. A member of the most recent incarnation of Crooked Fingers, on her own Trentalange takes mid-90s alternative rock cliches and plays up the torch, often coming across like Polly Jean Harvey fronting a poor man's Garbage. Rebel Rouser headlines, Trentalange plays third, Opportunity School plays second, and Maribelle opens. a 9 PM, the Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-0011 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Jessica Hopper