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JIMMY SOMERVILLE 9/1, VORTEX A pioneer in what has come to be known as gay disco--he served stints in British synth-pop bands Bronski Beat and the Communards--Jimmy Somerville exploits a piercing falsetto to produce consistently banal love songs. His new solo outing Dare to Love (London) alternates between soft-edged techno and quasi-soulful pop, but all the tunes offer are familiar meditations on relationships and sex--'cept that he's singing about another he. The homosexual Lolita-rendering of the title cut is overtly melodramatic ("The law was against him / He was 25 his lover was 16") but by and large the album merely puts a gay slant on the same old pop formulas we've been hearing for decades. YOUNG DUBLINERS 9/1, CUBBY BEAR While primary vocalists and songwriters Keith Roberts and Paul O'Toole hail from Dublin and the group draw sparely upon instruments like tin whistle and violin, the Celtic flavor of LA's Young Dubliners is lost amid their predictable if competent AOR mouthwash. On their new album Breathe (Backyard/Scotti Bros.) they wander a bit in search of an identity but end up settling for a fistful of mediocrity. SNFU, JOYKILLER, BRACKET 9/1, HEMENSWAY AUDITORIUM SNFU seem intent on following the laughable career path of fellow Canadian punks D.O.A. For over a decade, with only a brief interruption for a breakup, SNFU have been diligently bashing out tired punk rock sounds while paying no mind to the clock ticking away on the wall. Their recent The One Voted Most Likely to Succeed (Epitaph) confirms their resolution to ignore changing consumer tastes; they must be thrilled that trends have caught up with them. LA's the Joykiller are fronted by another washed-up punk, former T.S.O.L. singer Jack Grisham, and their eponymous debut is driven by the same sort of sprawling take on the style his old band practiced. Unfortunately it's just as hackneyed. Forrestville, California, combo Bracket aren't veterans, and their more youthful exuberance is palpable on their recent Don Fleming-produced 4-Wheel Vibe (Caroline). Of course, being young is no guarantee of originality: while their two albums are chockablock with catchy wag-along melodies, their toughened-up take on Green Day is nothing you haven't heard before. SILVERCHAIR 9/2, METRO Their debut album, Frogstomp (Epic), has catapulted Australia's Silverchair to instant stardom at home, and it seems success in America may soon follow. The trio spend so much time downplaying their ages (15 and 16) and denying their undeniable Seattle influences (Pearl Jam and Soundgarden) that some members of the press have dubbed them Kindergarden, but the utter lack of substance in their music has been completely ignored. They create a remarkably tight and assured racket, but really, if grown-ups were pawning off this by-the-numbers grunge--and their music basically defines that marketing term--it's tough to imagine anyone giving them the time of day. LOU DONALDSON 9/2, CHICAGO JAZZ FESTIVAL As demonstrated by his most recent album, Sentimental Journey (Columbia), alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson delivers a crowd-pleasing, easygoing, toe-tapping variety of bluesy jazz. He broke out on the scene in the 50s, playing bebop with people like Art Blakey, Horace Silver, and Milt Jackson before finding a niche fronting funky organ combos during the late 60s and early 70s; his classic Blue Note sides from this time have since become grist for the acid-jazz mill. The new album pairs him with old Hammond-organ maestro Lonnie Smith, but apart from a nice gritty lilt that courses through some of it, the record's as comfortingly mainstream as it gets. ALICE DONUT 9/3, METRO On their seventh album, Pure Acid Park (Alternative Tentacles), New York's Alice Donut continue slogging their way through an over-the-top brew of painfully deliberate, vaguely psychedelic nutty rock. Melodies exist, but they're buried beneath numerous layers of functionless sound; their throw-in-the-kitchen-sink instrumentation only tells us that they have access to lots of equipment. Ultra Bide open. DAISIES 9/4, EMPTY BOTTLE On its debut album, Kowloon House (I.R.S.), this peppy foursome from Oxford, England, churns out triumphantly faceless guitar pop, though Jamie Hyatt's vocals recall a roughed-up Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera. Their tour with labelmates hHead and the Surfing Brides is a farm-team exhibition that should lead to the alternative-rock big leagues, but they'll never be more than spackle in the cracks left by Bush and Better Than Ezra. SUN 60 9/7, DOUBLE DOOR This LA-based quintet operates like musical Silly Putty, perpetually picking up new ideas from the latest demographic discoveries. On their recently released third album, HEAdjoy (Epic), they feel around this huge alternative-rock thing in a desperate attempt to get a piece of the pie. They don't even warrant crumbs.

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

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