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MAGNAPOP 9/16, METRO Epitomized by the catchy MTV hit "Slowly, Slowly," the hollow but bouncy sounds of Atlanta's Magnapop place them clearly in a genre henceforth known as "alternative bubblegum." They're fronted by the appealingly sweet voice of Linda Hopper--whose ancient membership in Oh-OK, a quirky Athens trio with Matthew Sweet and Linda Limner (the sister of Michael Stipe), partially explains her strong melodic sensibilities. On their recent Bob Mould-produced Hot Boxing (Priority) Magnapop undergird their squeaky-clean pop with an airbrushed aggression. Judging from their impending "chart success," it's an effective formula. The Fall, whose many and timeless virtues are the subject of a Critic's Choice, headline. SHUDDER TO THINK 9/16, METRO Combining ridiculously obtuse lyrics, infectious melodies, an off-kilter instrumental attack, and the eccentric vocals of Craig Wedren, Shudder to Think both fascinate and irritate. After making several albums for Dischord, the D.C. band is set to release its major-label debut, Pony Express Record (Epic). On it their Fugazi-like musical deconstructions and Wedren's swooping operatic vocal confections have an accessibility that manages to overcome the insistent quirkiness. Barely. SLUG, SUPREME DICKS 9/16, EMPTY BOTTLE Slug are an LA ugly-rock sextet whose sound is rooted by a pair of heavily distorted, sludgy electric basses grinding away at the center of a dense, chaotic din. On their recent The Out Sound (PCP Entertainment) strained-and-pained vocals compete to be heard amid a barrage of primitive tape loops, relentlessly pounded drums, and spattered, slate gray guitar noise. The effect is an all-out sonic attack that manages to pique your interest after grabbing you by the scruff of the neck. The emotional torpor of Supreme Dicks, who hail from Northampton, Massachusetts, manifests itself in extremely subdued, introverted, wobbly folk-rock tunes that often recall Sebadoh's most melancholy moments. On last year's The Unexamined Life (Homestead) the unhinged playing couldn't undermine the strong writing of these bummer-rockers. Also performing are Doo Rag and DQE. STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT 9/16, AVALON This LA foursome represents a generation that grew up listening to the 80s new wave/punk explosion--that immense range between Echo & the Bunnymen and Dead Kennedys, both of which are among its admitted influences. Listening to their eponymous debut one gets the feeling that all those sources were tossed in a blender to produce this colorless, indistinctive sludge. A punk rock Stone Temple Pilots? WILLIE COLON 9/17, HANK'S An undisputed master of Latin music, bandleader/singer/ trombonist Willie Colon brings his topflight salsa band to town for an infrequent Chicago appearance. Last year's Hecho en Puerto Rico (Sony Discos) offered a trademark blend of romanticism, soulful crooning, bright yet smoky horn arrangements, and the irresistible bed of thick percussion, while demonstrating the leader's savvy with a slick contemporary ballad or two. As fine as his albums can be, nothing can touch the smoldering live experience. HOODOO GURUS 9/17, PARK WEST Having just released their sixth album, Crank (Zoo), Australia's Hoodoo Gurus are an excellent example of an "alternative rock" band that attained fringe success years before the ubiquitous phrase was ever coined and got elbowed out of the way when the stakes were raised. While their college-radio-friendly pop-rock once reflected the typically Australian obsession with the relentless rattle of the Stooges, over time they've lost that manic edge, settling down as a 60s-flavored rock band with a hard guitar sound. Now they're playing a futile game of catch-up, desperately attempting to reclaim that crucial edge. The new album is certainly solid and contains its fair share of catchy tunes, especially "You Open My Eyes," a sunny mid-tempo rocker with the additional vocals of former Bangle Vicki Peterson, and the Hoodoo Gurus are game for the game; they just forgot why they're playing. Charming Beggars open. TINA & THE B-SIDE MOVEMENT 9/17, OTIS' Soul-flecked 70s retro-rockers from Minneapolis, Tina & the B-Side Movement could well be grooming themselves for a spot on next year's H.O.R.D.E. tour or at least a place in the hearts of music fans who think Sheryl Crow is really saying something. Proof that certain bar bands haven't turned on the radio for 20 years, which in this case probably means since the band members were three or four. REVEREND HORTON HEAT, 9/17 & 18, METRO It's beyond me why the Reverend's revved-up rockabilly causes such a fuss. The Dallas guitar jockey's new album Liquor in the Front (Interscope/Sub Pop)--open the CD case, see the words "poker in the rear," and then you might get the "joke"--produced by none other than Chicago's least-missed expatriate Al Jourgensen, doesn't offer much evidence to justify the hype. While the record suitably emphasizes the trio's manic energy and pushes hard on the volume lever, it can't disguise the fact that they're traipsing through well-trod turf, buzzing hormonal ditties about sex, booze, and cars. Worthy subjects, natch, but why these artless lugs have been anointed ambassadors of rockabilly remains the pressing question. WHORECULTURE 9/21, AVALON A Gainesville, Florida, quintet delivering competent but distinctly unremarkable hard rock, on their recent Boondocked (Bullet Head) Whoreculture evoke a steady diet of swinging lunk-rockers from Led Zeppelin to Soundgarden to Pearl Jam. If you crave basic proficiency over inspiration this'll fill your belly. And fellas, if your name's a twist on horticulture, you're missing a syllable.

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

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