Spot Check 

DESCENDRO ALLEGRO 4/13, HIDEOUT; 4/14, FIRESIDE BOWL Though it doesn't have anything to do with the infuriatingly addictive Japanese arcade game Dance Dance Revolution, this Chicago trio's fourth self-released CD, Dance Revolution, has the same sort of klutzy enthusiasm as the dozens of kids I watched tripping over their own limbs with gusto in Chinatown last winter as the squares lit up faster and faster under their feet. Though the Descendro Allegro boys claim they want to erase the distinction between discotheques for dancing and rock clubs for gawking, there's plenty of rock that already does: this isn't the only record of beat-heavy, pogo-inspiring power pop folks might be hurling themselves around to this year. But it's as infectious as any I've heard so far. At the Hideout they share the bill with John Greenfield--a sort of homegrown Jonathan Richman--and his backing ensemble the Rock Band; the show at the Fireside is a benefit for Ladyfest Midwest Chicago with Kim, the Rope, and Service Anxiety. JIMMY LAFAVE 4/13, OLD TOWN SCHOOL; 4/14, FITZGERALD'S Jimmy LaFave is a west-coast balladeer trapped in a Texan's body: he lives in Austin and nods to Texas blues more than once on his new Texoma (Bohemia Beat), but he also covers "San Francisco" (yes, "be sure to wear some flowers in your hair") and a Jimmy Webb ballad ("The Moon's a Harsh Mistress"), and even the tunes that name-check Texas are as slick as a handful of Coppertone. The Old Town show is part of a "Texas Blowout," with Tom Russell (see Critic's Choice), Eliza Gilkyson, and Tish Hinojosa; at FitzGerald's he'll share the bill with Russell. LEATHERFACE 4/13, FIRESIDE BOWL; 4/14, EMPTY BOTTLE Back before "emo" signified anything but nerdy comedy, there was Leatherface, a soulful and loud British outfit that put out five albums between 1988 and 1993. After a breakup and the death of original bass player Andy Crighton, the band re-formed, recorded a split CD, and in 1999 went on tour with the young and popular Florida emo band Hot Water Music. The positive response led them to record a whole new full-length, last year's Horsebox. Now they're back on the road with HWM in support of a rerelease of their fifth album, The Last (BYO), with bonus tracks from front man Frankie Stubbs's other band Pope. It's shaggy but tuneful punk, with guitars that in spots answer the ancient riddle "why do punk rock guys go out with new-wave girls?" CABARET DIOSA 4/14, MARTYRS' You never know where the next parody/revival trend is going to come from: this retro little Latin big band from Boulder, Colorado, plays a kitschy blend it refers to as "Hi-Fi Latin Exotica," which pays homage equally to Tito Puente, Desi Arnaz, and Carmen Miranda movies. Only one band member is genuinely Latino (though some of the others claim to be "Jewban"), but the rest of the players take stage names like "Don Grande de la Misconcepcion." This is not so distasteful as it might sound: their message seems to be that the people of the world can forget their differences by joining hands in good-natured hedonism, and their 1999 album Voodoo Piñata (Exotica) passes the ultimate test: bananas or no bananas, yes, you will dance. ARAB STRAP 4/16, EMPTY BOTTLE This Scottish band's always had great mix-tape appeal: in his heavy, slurry, romantic accent, main man Aidan Moffat articulates all the impolite, incorrect, and inarticulate ways love can fail. But in the three years since their last proper studio album, something nice seems to have happened to him: the new The Red Thread (Matador), whose title refers to the thread that's said to bind soulmates in Chinese legend, is relatively...well, even bittersweet would be too strong, but it does sound like he's been persuaded that all attempts at love (and sex) aren't inherently damned. While this may provide some fans with less cold comfort, it also makes for a greater, deeper sense of beauty. ELENI MANDELL 4/17, MARTYRS' Pretty-sounding women willing to confess their insecurities in song are everywhere, and loud, raunchy don't-give-a-fuck women are, thankfully, on the rise. But what the world really needs is more deeply, disturbingly, wonderfully eccentric women--accepting that Texas Terri is the female Iggy Pop, where's the distaff Captain Beefheart? (For a while we thought it might be Polly Jean Harvey, but boy, did she get normal awful fast.) LA-based Eleni Mandell isn't quite Beefheart weird, and her smoky voice is undeniably pretty, but she's got a bit of Tom Waits in her blood: on her second album, Thrill (Space Baby), she invents a dark damaged cabaret and fills it with wit, irony, sex, and occasionally a distracted silence. SEPULTURA 4/17, HOUSE OF BLUES More than a decade ago, Sepultura's first international release explosively informed the world that metal wasn't just for American and British white boys anymore. Since then, the long-haired Brazilians have suffered through the usual problems that plague metal bands--fluctuating markets, stressful festival tours, acrimonious departure of crucial members--but they've also taken some atypical detours, including the 1996 album, Roots, which incorporated the chanting of the Amazonian Xavantes tribe, and the new Nation (Roadrunner), which features contributions from Jello Biafra, Brooklyn dub artist Dr. Israel, and the Finnish string quartet Apocalyptica. While many American and European metal bands avoid politics--or flirt with fascism--the cover of Nation has the look of a socialist propaganda poster (or at least an Antiflag record) and its inverted pentagram isn't blood red but rather lefty red--the quotes in the liner notes come from the likes of Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, and Einstein. This is the band's second album with new front man Derrick Green (recruited from the Cleveland hardcore scene), and it's a crisp, focused assault--hey, as long as original drummer Igor Cavalera is still on board, they're bound to be OK. ATARI STAR 4/19, FIRESIDE BOWL Good bittersweet pop is easy to listen to but hard to pull off. On their first full-length, Shrp Knf Cts Mtns (Johann's Face), this surprisingly fey ensemble led by Johann's Face honcho Marc Ruvolo builds up sparse but smooth layers of vocals, guitars, piano, organ, and violin until the melodies roll out like the chocolate in a Twix commercial. They're so charming you may not even mind extraprecious lyrics like: "The words die on your lips / Tears fall in slow motion / We have been eclipsed."

--Monica Kendrick

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