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REACTION FORMATION 5/28, SMART BAR, 5/29, phyllis' These local pop-flopsters are calling it quits with these shows after a decade of public indifference--proof that it's never too late to learn. JUNKHOUSE 5/28, AVALON Considered one of Canada's hottest bands, which is sort of like being considered Wyoming's next big thing, Junkhouse traipse through rock's vast history, turning up everything from hard rock to roots to boogie and cramming it together into one unkempt jumble. Vocalist Tom Wilson croons with entirely too much confidence, his affected warble sliding over the music's dispassionate hodgepodge like crude oil over sludge. FLOUR, DAZZLING KILLMEN 5/28, LOUNGE AX Inexplicably performing this show under the pseudonym Peat, which is surely a play on the name of sole member Pete Conway, Flour began as a side project for the bassist of the largely forgotten, longtime Minneapolis postpunk combo Riflesport. Whether his fruitfulness is due to boredom or enjoyment, Conway has just released Flour's fourth album, the hopefully honestly named Fourth and Final (Touch & Go). On his records Conway has dabbled in noisy, pop-touched stuff colored by strange sonic flourishes; unfortunately, the more of them he churns out the more stale, uninspired, and dated they sound. (A few other musicians'll flesh out the band live.) Saint Louis's Dazzling Killmen have been honing their bludgeon-rock chops for more than three years, and from the evidence offered on their recent Face of Collapse (Skin Graft), they've certainly reached a real, if uncertain, peak: the vocals of Nick Sakes take throat shredding to new extremes, and the rest of the band raises a scalding, out-of-control ruckus. If you want to watch four guys make a lot of noise and grimace, look no further. Headlining are Chicago's Pegboy; also on the bill is Minneapolis's Brick Layer Cake, playing under the name Black Cherry Tomatoes. SISTER MACHINE GUN 5/28 & 29, METRO Performing in what's been labeled, without irony, "Angst Fest" (also appearing are KMFDM, Chemlab, and Acumen), Sister Machine Gun handily demonstrate why industrial rock is such a stale, formulaic joke. Their recent The Torture Technique (Wax Trax) offers all the required elements: canned postdisco beats, controlled snatches of noise, wan faux-metal guitar, half-growled-half-whispered vocals extolling their cartoonish obsession with such arcane subjects as drugs, suicide, sexual domination, religion, and, of course, capitalist oppression. Any genre so dependent on today's fast-evolving music technology--samplers, synthesizers, drum machines--for its distinctiveness marches straight toward obsolescence: when was the last time you heard early Front 242 without convulsing in laughter? FIGGS 5/29, PARK WEST It's quite appropriate that this quartet from Saratoga Springs, New York, is opening for old-time skinny-tie popsters the Knack, who are currently cashing in on the sputtering new-wave revival. As they demonstrate on their forthcoming debut, Lo Fi at Society High (Imago), the Figgs have fashioned a hard-hitting, guitar-soaked pop highly indebted to breakout late-70s British smart-aleck rockers like Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, and Joe Jackson. The Figgs update their sound a little with postindie rock-guitar density, and even though their stylistic niche is stuck 15 years in the past, their exuberant, charged delivery and consistently catchy songwriting (by guitarists Mike Gent and Pete Donnelly) put them over as a highly engaging diversion at worst. Pure pop for, er, people.

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

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