San Francisco's Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 are brilliant low-rent assimilators with lopsided pop sensibilities. While grounded in a kind of Beefheartian art rock, over the course of seven albums and EPs they've poked around in country, Cajun, jazz, and various (mostly Eastern) ethnic strains, returning home with smidgens of these styles stuck to them like burrs. The result, tempered with a healthy dollop of well-harnessed chaos, is damn near impossible to describe. Waves of guitar, found sounds, banjo, mandolin, and violin build into jarring, sideways structures out of which surprisingly catchy melodies emerge, and the sweet whine of Mark Davies and hushed warble of Anne Eickelberg cut through the din like sun rays dissolving fog. Throughout all their ambitious experimenting, TFUL282 maintain a crafty balance of the familiar and the absurd. Their terrific new record, Strangers From the Universe (Matador), combines screwy humor--"I'm your gravy baster gun / You're my creamy, squishy bun / We've got a funny situation, you and me / We're the beaver and the hog" from the thinly metaphoric "The Piston and the Shaft"--with sheets of quivering sound and some of their most accessible, melody-rich tunes yet. Live they tend to eschew some of the more obtuse experiments and focus on their driving rocklike tunes, but it remains like little else you've heard before. The Coctails open. Saturday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Gail Butensky.