Spot Check 

LESTER BOWIE 9/23, BELMONT HOTEL The usually inventive, always entertaining Art Ensemble of Chicago trumpeter and leader of the Brass Fantasy reconvenes with percussionist Kahil El'Zabar and bassist Malachi Favors. In the mid-80s this group formed an early version of El'Zabar's Ritual Trio--there's a pair of excellent albums on the German Sound Aspects label that capture this phase. Another early edition with violinist Billy Bang has given a few performances recently, but this reunion promises even more bluster and excitement given Bowie's knack for bravura, sly humor, and terrific playing. FRETBLANKET 9/23, METRO Having nabbed the highly coveted opening slot on the hotly anticipated Boingo tour--some acts have been waiting since there was still an Oingo--the British quartet Fretblanket hope to catapult themselves into post-new-wave history on the basis of their debut, Junkfuel (Atlas). Sounding like the Replacements or Soul Asylum but with guitar-techie precision, these very young men--the oldest is 20--with long shiny hair would be a publicist's dream if their songs were at all distinctive. REDBALL 9/23, METRO Redball, who sound like a funked-up Shawn Colvin or Ani DeFranco with the addition of an insistent saxophone, celebrate the release of a split single with Elysium, whose bio claims they've "elevated bitterness to an art form." NOVA MOB 9/23, DOUBLE DOOR As Bob Mould's overrated Sugar becomes the object of ever-increasing adulation, there's no good reason some praise shouldn't fall on former Husker Du drummer Grant Hart's current band, Nova Mob. Hart, who penned some of Husker's catchiest tunes but has been erratic since, sounds more consistent on this band's recent second album, which is filled with rather soaring, hook-filled tunes set against a pleasant, moderately hard-rocking tang. GAS HUFFER 9/23, EMPTY BOTTLE This Seattle foursome featuring former U-Men guitarist Tom Price continue to straighten out their once manically wigged rock 'n' roll. Although word is they continue to kick it live, their new One Inch Masters (Epitaph) comes off as less-than-standard-issue lowbrow rockin' with some deliberately goofy vocals--the sound of tired persistence. BARENAKED LADIES 9/24, METRO Based on both a quick phrenologic study and a trying audition of their new album Maybe You Should Drive (Sire/Reprise), my guess is that the members of Toronto's Barenaked Ladies gathered up their Beatles, James Taylor, and Cat Stevens records one day and decided to start an "alternative rock" band. From the city that gave the world Moxy Fruvous, here's another rock band for people who don't like rock music. HAGFISH 9/24 & 29, AVALON One of the most unfortunate upshots of Green Day's surprise success is that Texas music critics, afraid to get caught with their pants down again, aren't giving the sub-Ramones dime-store "punk rock" of these Dallas twerps the dismissal it deserves. I live in Chicago, of course, so I can honestly say you'd be better off staying home picking the lint out of your belly button. WARREN G 9/25, ROSEMONT HORIZON "I can't believe this is happening in my own town," exclaims Warren G in "Regulate," narrating the gunpoint theft of his rings and his Rolex. Putting a sensitive face on gangsta rap? Hardly--a moment later he's "lettin' gats explode" and pickin' up "dames." Cover up less-than-savory boasting with a slick, slinky R & B gloss and things won't sting as much; Regulate...G Funk Era (Violator/RAL) is filled with such seductive, insidious grooves, expanding on the musical premise set forth by older brother Dr. Dre. This gentle guy with the gun appears with R. Kelly, Coolio, and Heavy D & the Boyz. MOTOCASTER 9/29, METRO On their Mitch Easter-produced debut album, Stay Loaded (Interscope), this Raleigh power trio rip through the music with an undiluted high-volume attack: ominous riffing, menacing but melodic leads, over-the-top drumming. Throughout the album Motocaster's sonic ferocity engages in fierce battle with a lazy but omnipresent tunefulness, though live they'll probably throw any subtle craft out the window in favor of their abundant bluster.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marina Chavez.

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