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POSIES 6/21, METRO Seattle's Posies have a new album, Amazing Disgrace (DGC), a new rhythm section, and a retooled sound. Main men Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, the pair that flesh out Alex Chilton's re-formed Big Star, remain unabashed pure popsters but leave behind the rarefied jangle in favor of Cheap Trick-like power pop (Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen perform on the record's "Hate Song"). While some melodies show the Posies' knack for hooks, others either cloy, like the horrible "Everybody Is a Fucking Liar," or get smothered by the band's desire to rock, such as "Grant Hart," the wan ode to the Hüsker Dü drummer. Velocity Girl open. COME, SONORA PINE 6/21, Lounge Ax Following the departure of their longtime rhythm section--bassist Sean O'Brien and drummer Arthur Johnson--Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw recorded the new Come record, Near Life Experience (Matador), with a pair of replacements that offered more urgency and soul. Half the album's terrific songs were recorded in Chicago with Bundy Brown (ex-Tortoise) and Mac McNeilly of the Jesus Lizard, while the other half feature former Rodan members Tara Jane O'Neil and Kevin Coultas, who are touring with Come and playing with opener Sonora Pine. Though the guitar playing of Zedek and Brokaw has always been both sorrowful and sanguine, the record expands Come's sonic warmth with new textures. But most striking is Zedek's smoky melodicism and the heightened expressiveness of her choked vocals. For a band that seemed on the brink of dissolution, Come have made a fine, revitalized return. The violin playing of Samara Lubelski lends an air of hazy warmth to the music of Sonora Pine, but on the band's eponymous debut the plodding rhythms, slate gray guitars, and flat singing smother most of the beauty and all of the life. Also on the bill is New York's Spoiler, a combo featuring guitarist Mark C, who played with Zedek years ago in the great Live Skull. ASS PONYS 6/21, DOUBLE DOOR On the fourth Ass Ponys album, The Known Universe (A&M), front man Chuck Cleaver continues to make the most ordinary small-town oddities strangely poignant. Whether it's scorching ants with a magnifying glass or discovering maggots after poking at a dead raven, Cleaver weaves childhood memories into an evocative fabric of adult dilemmas--from failing at mature relationships ("Cancer Show") to coping with everyday life ("Redway"). The homespun charm of the band's superb rollicking folk rock only makes the eccentric stories take root easier. Wolverton Brothers open. KARATE 6/21, FIRESIDE BOWL This young Boston trio exploits the dynamic extremes of Slint as a hushed foundation for its emotionally fraught indie-rock yammering. There's a certain ripe beauty to be found, but more often than not Karate sound like self-conscious slaves to their influences. SCREAMING TREES, SALT 6/22, METRO Warming up for this year's Lollapalooza tour, Seattle's Screaming Trees embark on a brief club tour, previewing songs from their forthcoming album, Dust (Epic). Produced by George Drakoulias (Black Crowes, Jayhawks), the album finds the band laying it on thick, swaddling its catchy psychedelia with strings and 60s keyboard textures (mellotron, organ, electric piano). But Mark Lanegan's soulful singing and the authoritative riff slinging of Gary Lee Conner remain at the forefront. On their debut album, Auscultate (Island), Stockholm's Salt combine gritty hard-rock bluster with guitarist Nina Rambsy's evocative vocals--which recall the breathy swoops of Polly Jean Harvey without the meaningful drama. UZ JSME DOMA 6/22, EMPTY BOTTLE While it's certainly noteworthy that Chicagoans have a chance to hear a rock band from Prague, based on their U.S. debut, Hollywood (Skoda), Uz Jsme Doma have distilled the most irksome Zappa-esque tendencies of the great Plastic People of the Universe into a prog-rock concentrate. If you like goofy humor, crazy tempo shifts, and flashy instrumental flourishes, well, maybe you should pack your bags for the Czech Republic. Shiner headline. WILLIE NELSON 6/25, RAVINIA The country great hits town with a fine new acoustic release, Spirit (Island), but the question is whether Willie Nelson will preview songs from his forthcoming reggae album. PETER WOLF 6/25, PARK WEST On his new album, Long Line (Reprise), the former husband of Faye Dunaway and front man for the J. Geils Band delivers the sort of R & B-drenched rock that most people expect but don't get from Mick Jagger's lousy solo records. On the other hand, Peter Wolf is a lot like WXRT, who've been longtime supporters: they would both remain popular if only people still cared about mid-80s mainstream rock, which isn't a value judgment so much as a testament to time. There's nothing inherently bad about either of them; they just don't mean much to anyone but conservative nostalgia buffs. CHIXDIGGIT 6/25, LOUNGE AX After hearing the forgettable wag-along pop punk on the eponymous debut of Calgary's Chixdiggit, I found it hard not to imagine them dumbly wielding hockey sticks. While there's no arguing with a title like "Henry Rollins Is No Fun," the foursome's lowest common denominator shtick as evinced by songs like "Hemp Hemp Hooray" and "Toilet Seat's Coming Down" reinforces the unfortunate brain-dead stereotype of our northern neighbors made popular by SCTV's fictional McKenzie brothers.

--Peter Margasak

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