If you're not listening closely, Souls for Sale (Merge)--the debut album from the Alabama foursome Verbena--sounds like more of the same 70s-inspired guitar rock that's currently clogging the nation's airwaves. But Verbena has worked out its own appealing take on the form, and it includes neither overwrought caterwauling nor unbearable effects wankery. Drummer Les Nuby and bassist Daniel Johnston (not the savant from Austin) swing with a tough, economical, Stonesy swagger, and guitarists Anne Marie Griffin and Scott Bondy send well-aimed, meaty riffs hurtling through the band's well-written tunes. Whether on charmingly lumbering ballads like "The Song That Ended Your Career" or scorchers like "The Desert," Verbena's abundant hooks quickly prove indelible. The key to their deployment is the delectably rough harmonizing of Griffin and Bondy: neither has a particularly distinctive voice, but together they recall the Pixies without the cloying eccentricity. They open for Chicago's Fig Dish, who will likely play songs from their forthcoming second album, When Shove Goes Back to Push. Saturday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Phil Marino.