Wild Carnation embodies the best of American rock music from the 80s. That's probably because Brenda Sauter, the trio's singer and bassist, once played with the Feelies, one of the best bands of the 80s. Her new group draws freely from the Feelies' bag of tricks, wielding briskly strummed guitars, propulsive meters, and understated singing with confidence and grace. But where a Feelies concert was a manic rush of hyperactive guitars and crazy rhythms--like rapidly downing a triple espresso dusted with Benzedrine--Wild Carnation live are more like leisurely savoring a cafe latte; they're smoother and they go down easier, but they still have a kick. The combo's achingly melodic debut single--"Dodger Blue" and its B side "The Lights Are On (But No One's Home)"--was one of 1994's best; Tricycle, the new album about to be released on Chicago's Delmore Recordings, reveals that those songs weren't flukes. Yanti Arafin & Squirm open and the Vulgar Boatmen headline. Friday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.