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CHUNE 7/26, EMPTY BOTTLE On the band's second album, Big Hat, No Cattle (Headhunter/Cargo), Chune puts forth a pasteurized version of San Diego grind rock. Behind the Mark Trombino-tweaked twin guitar assault, singer Andy Harris struggles to express melodic ideas picked out of the trash in the alley behind the Smashing Pumpkins' house. Second-tier spin doctors will call it passionate; everyone else will call it annoying. FROGS 7/26, DOUBLE DOOR Masters of calculated comedic outrage, Milwaukee's Frogs have released their first album since their notorious 1989 "gay supremacist" opus It's Only Right and Natural. (Debate still rages over their as yet unreleased Racially Yours, a collection of patently offensive ditties that's bounced un-successfully from label to label. At present Kelley Deal of the Breeders is set to release it.) Despite the title, the new My Daughter the Broad (Matador) revolves around no particular stripe of insult: the Frogs' slapped-together Bowie-esque folk rock rambles stream of consciousness through a variety of old-fashioned American taboos, including but not limited to genitalia and pedophilia. They headline a Scratchie Records showcase that also includes the Chainsaw Kittens and Ivy; Saturday at 2 they'll perform at Reckless Records on Broadway. JUDGE NOTHING 7/26, FIRESIDE BOWL; 7/27, BEAT KITCHEN With the aid of All's Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton--now known better for their knob twirling than their own contributions to the pop-punk corpus--Judge Nothing has nicely skirted the traps inherent in rote, melody-sopped wag-along punk. The local trio's debut album, Riveter (Thick), ain't exactly iconoclastic, but it nevertheless manages to suggest the band's range within the typically stifling confines of the purple-haired idiom. They're tight, and they don't always sound like Green Day. Right on! JOHNNY CLEGG & JULUKA 7/27, PARK WEST During South Africa's apartheid era Johnny Clegg was politically important for his open collaboration with Zulu Sipho Mchunu, though the musical results were less than groundbreaking. In the 80s Clegg piggybacked his limp African pop on the flimsy activism of new wave--like Special AKA's call to "Free Nelson Mandela"--to score a minor hit with "Scatterlings of Africa." Now it's hard to figure out why anyone would give two hoots about the pabulum he's long served up when the real deal abounds. A new Clegg retrospective has been issued by Putumayo, the clothing company-cum-record label seeking to exploit some link between shopping and watered-down ethnic music. TRAILER HITCH 7/27, METRO Local knobs striking a pathetic white trash/trucker pose--their bio claims that they're from Tuscaloosa--Trailer Hitch are a joke band for people with a questionable sense of humor. Amid tedious metal-boogie riffing some tattooed jamoke calling himself Junior spouts one dopey good-ol'-boy cliche after another. CHARLIE HUNTER QUARTET 7/29, rosemont theatre On Ready. Set. Shango! (Blue Note), Bay Area guitarist Charlie Hunter expands his group into a quartet with the addition of alto saxophonist Calder Spanier and jettisons most of the Meters-ish funk that associated previous efforts with acid jazz. Instead, this record favors a looser, 60s soul-jazz style. Hunter's eight-string playing--he simultaneously delivers the bass lines and chordal vamps--remains better in the support role, but the twin-sax frontline consistently delivers the goods, even if Spanier and Dave Ellis, who's since been replaced by Kenny Brooks, veer more toward a groovy good time than resonant expression. The quartet opens for Tracy Chapman. LYLE LOVETT 7/30, New WORLD MUSIC THEATre After reclaiming much of the biting cynicism he lost during the Julia Roberts incident--consider the relative optimism of I Love Everybody--Lyle Lovett returns as one of America's favorite misanthropes. Though his new album, The Road to Ensenada (Curb/MCA), ends with a hidden track called "The Girl in the Corner" that suggests his next unlikely romance is only a matter of time ("Then she extended her hand to me / And the rest they say is history"), for the most part Lovett's back to watching his relationships crumble. Whether he's smart-assing--"You can have my girl / But don't touch my hat"--or contemplating lost love with the effectively spare "Promises," the tilt of his crooked mouth and his wry delivery suggest that despite life's pains he still likes living it. He's opening for Sting, but you can also catch him Monday at 5 at the Borders on Michigan. MUZZLE 7/30, METRO On its generic debut album, Betty Pickup (Kinetic/Reprise), Seattle's Muzzle proves again that while perfecting the look, sound, and feel of various alternative rock paradigms might seem like the formula for success, receiving the imprimatur of Kurt Cobain was a lot more efficient. HAZIES 8/1, DOUBLE DOOR The Hazies' second album, Vinnie Smokin' in the Big Room (EMI), guarantees that the quintet has quite a future as the opening act for other insignificant bands. So far they've filled such a bill for irrelevancies like Brother Cane, For Squirrels, and the Nixons. Ken Logan's singing recalls the most exasperating 70s-tinged aspects of Dave Pirner's hysterical wail, but otherwise the Hazies sound depressingly like early-80s AOR fodder.

--Peter Margasak

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photographs of 2 members of Frogs.

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