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DIE WARZAU 7/28, The problem with industrial disco, apart from the monochromatic angst-tinged gothic singing, is that it remains a perpetual slave to technology: as samplers, synthesizers, and drum machines become more and more sophisticated, old recordings sound tepid and dated. Engine (Wax Trax), the third and most recent album by Chicago's Die Warzau, is yet another round in this cycle of built-in obsolescence. It may contain the requisite amount of fake emotion and plenty of novel sounds--jarring deconstructions and incongruous nondance music weaves--but its soul remains a machine. Remember, Atari was once considered state-of-the-art. KNAPSACK 7/28, EMPTY BOTTLE A few years ago Burbank's Alias Records cashed in on Superchunk's rising popularity by signing a bunch of bands from Chapel Hill: the puerile, inept Picasso Trigger, the competent if anonymous Small (whose Chuck Garrison was Superchunk's original drummer), and Archers of Loaf, who've fully and convincingly come into their own. The next step in Alias's Superchunk outreach program begins closer to home. Knapsack are from the California college town of Davis, and judging from their label debut, Silver Sweepstakes, there must be something in the water there that thins the blood; Knapsack's tedious trek through tired college-radio sounds provides a blueprint for Spinal Tap's reincarnation as Totebag, 70s ironists in colored pocket Ts. THE HOAX 7/28 & 29, SKYLINE STAGE, 7/29 buddy guy's legends Artless blues rock is alive and well in England. The Hoax--nice bit of sincerity in that moniker--open for Buddy Guy, but don't you have dishes to do? SKID ROW 7/28, NEW WORLD MUSIC THEATRE, 7/29, ALPINE VALLEY In the four years since Skid Row's last studio album, 1991's hugely popular Slave to the Grind, mainstream tastes have changed so much it's impossible to imagine these boneheads ever regaining their exalted status. Their new Subhuman Race (Atlantic) may have its moments, but more than anything else it's a relic of an era in which alienation and weirdness weren't the sole province of the hip. They open for Van Halen. Yeah, really. LOCAL H, RUSTBUCKET 7/29 METRO Ham Fisted (Island), the recent debut album from the Zion duo Local H, offers a leaden example of how the detritus of Nirvana has scattered across the heartland. With the raspy screamed melodies and bulldozing riffs of Scott Lucas and the punishing rhythmic attack of drummer Joe Daniels, Local H have reclaimed the immediate past and rendered it impotent. It may be a stylistically accurate model, but the haze of replication guarantees a lack of urgency. Rustbucket's debut album, El Famous (Crank), doesn't even bother to rely on such a clear-cut model: it's entirely indistinctive. FOETUS 7/29, DOME ROOM Touring in support of his major label debut, Gash (Columbia), Foetus (aka J.G. Thirlwell aka Clint Ruin) makes his first Chicago appearance in three years. There was once a time when his psycho-ranted industrial-blues deconstructions sounded like nothing else on earth; now they just sound like all his other records. SHINER, SARDINA 7/29, DOUBLE DOOR Part of the new Kansas City scene--Season to Risk, Boys Life, Giant's Chair--Shiner metes out swirling blasts of melodic postpunk. Their debut album, Splay (DeSoto), suggests a fondness for label bosses Jawbox, especially in the way guitarist Allen Epley's slow-motion vocals butt up against the trio's fierce, muscular attack. Sardina's debut, "Presents" (HitIt!), whose cover art and homophonous title pay homage to Led Zeppelin's Presence, carves a swath through psychedelic folk rock. Primary vocalist Michelle Marchesseault has a breathy, somewhat ethereal reed of a voice, but the group's abundant power and skillful arranging steer songs like the album's striking opener, "Ding Dong, the Liberty Horse," away from hippy-dippy fluff and toward economically rendered hooks. The album has its clunkers--the irritating over-the-top production on "Cockadooodleooo" proves that Sardina shouldn't try to rock too hard, and when they err on the spare side, as on "Big Man," Marchesseault begins to sound like Edie Brickell--but they've delivered one of the more impressive debuts I've heard in quite some time. THE GOOD 7/29, SUBTERRANEAN CAFE On its debut, Oft Interred With Their Bones (Jumbo), this local quintet chronicles the ennui that comes from living in Lincoln Park. All those dour activists and invasive trendy hipsters with shaved heads, pierced noses, and tattoos can be such a fucking bummer! UNIVERSAL HONEY 7/29, ELBO ROOM If this Toronto foursome ditched its oeuvre of indistinctive originals in favor of tunes penned by Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson it'd make an impressive Bangles tribute band. Bassist Johnny Sinclair and drummer Michael Sloski would have to perform in drag, natch. SPEEDBALL 7/30, THURSTON'S Charged-up old-time punk rock from Detroit. No more, probably less. HUMPERS 8/2, METRO LA punk that thankfully eschews peppy paint-by-numbers "popcore" in favor of Dead Boys nihilism, which doesn't necessarily mean they're good or anything.

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