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PEEP 1/5, METRO On this combo's debut EP, Ghost Circus (Mockingbird), vocalist Jeff Rawwin's quavery, melodramatic lump of sensitive-guy pretension is so irritating that the bland backing behind his tortured crooning becomes even more innocuous. From the 4AD-knockoff artwork on their album's cover to the cringe-inducing grandeur of their plodding music, Peep make clear they're a decade too late.

PAUL CEBAR & THE MILWAUKEEANS, MARLEE MacLEOD 1/6, SCHUBAS Paul Cebar has excellent taste. On the back of his new album, Upstroke for the Downfolk (Don't), he gleefully leaps in front of a wall plastered with rare albums by, one would assume, his favorite performers: Dizzy Gillespie, Otis Redding, the Meters, Lee Dorsey, Ray Charles, Professor Longhair, Celia Cruz, Freddie King, Miriam Makeba, you get the idea. Cebar's reverential appropriations of these pioneers are usually accurate, and the guy can sing, but there ain't much going on here. Like Van Morrison, Cebar is a musical dilettante. But Morrison brought something original to his pan-stylistic dabbling; Cebar just creates pretty imitations. The Milwaukeeans are a fun white-boy-soul bar band, perhaps, but not much more. On her recent Favorite Ball & Chain (Medium Cool/Restless) Minneapolis's Marlee MacLeod tempers clean heartland rock with lofty singer-songwriter ambitions, but in the end she's just a less aggravated Jennifer Trynin.

BOOM HANK 1/6, DOUBLE DOOR Boom Hank seem like a conscientious band: they packed their bags and moved from the south suburbs to the city in search of a more receptive audience. According to the bio for their debut, Nuisance (Pravda), however, audiences in both locales greeted their music with shouts of "You guys suck!" Bragging about stuff like this is a fairly typical record-industry ploy to appear both sarcastic and modest. It's a very stupid idea. After listening to the album, an involuntary, subliminally planted tic encourages the listener to think that their music, which would otherwise seem workmanlike, suddenly sucks. But considering how many miles they traveled in order to be appreciated by discerning fans, I'd hate to present them with another obstacle on their path to stardom by writing they suck. How about this synopsis: Boom Hank have guitars, bass, and drums, and they play them.

MELVIN TAYLOR & THE SLACK BAND 1/9, ROSA'S Based on his recent third album it's easy to see why guitarist Melvin Taylor is one of the most popular attractions on the bustling local blues scene. His lightning-fast runs dip into both rock firepower (he covers Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Texas Flood") and contemporary jazz voicings (his treatment of "Tequila," one of Wes Montgomery's signature tunes, echoes his trademark exploitation of octaves). His fluid single-note flurries are reminiscent of early George Benson. But for the most part Taylor sticks to the standard blues repertory, which he injects with lots of soloing. Guitar mavens will dig him, but his show-offiness destroys the emotional content. As his cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" suggests, Taylor's got the licks, just nothing new.

NOISE ADDICT 1/11, FI

ESIDE BOWL At the ripe old age of 17, Australian go-getter Ben Lee returns with a fully matured voice and his band, Noise Addict, in tow. His gig last year was solo, though Brad Wood, Casey Rice, and Rebecca Gates backed him on some tunes. This time Lee will play songs off his band's brand-new album, Meet the Real You (Grand Royal), which reaffirms that Lee's appeal doesn't rest only with his youth. Besides offering surprisingly poignant thoughts on the travails of young love, Lee reveals a knack for melody, and his abundant hooks sit nicely amid his band's punkish attack.

--Peter Margasak

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo of Marlee MacLeod.

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