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Hurl 11/15, Empty Bottle Hauling enormous slabs of dense guitar on its debut album, A Place Called Today (Third Gear/My Pal God), this austere Pittsburgh four-piece murmurs at times to keep alert as miles go by on an endless, desolate freeway. Killdozer's last-ever performance follows. John Huss Moderate Combo 11/15, Lounge Ax Hyde Park singer-guitarist Huss offers a less effective variant of They Might Be Giants' shtick--deadpan delivery of too-clever lyrics set to trite melodies. When he's not babbling about the cosmic connection between breakfast cereal and The King and I, he's making excuses for a self-perceived lack of soul ("I can't sing the blues / I never felt them, really / I'm not from the hills / I'm a suburbilly"). It's mildly amusing, but in a musician such dogged determination not to reach beyond the blandness of your own roots seems downright obnoxious. Brave Combo tops the bill. Kula Shaker 11/16, Double Door This new British foursome (led by Crispian Mills, son of Hayley) brandishes tabla and tamboura for the engagingly exotic "Govinda," but mostly disappoints with its neopsychedelic pastiche on the new K (Columbia). A more typical selection muddleheadedly merges undigested chunks of Jimi Hendrix wah-wah, Stevie Winwood organ, and Strawberry Alarm Clock vocal harmony only to be titled (ugh) "Grateful When You're Dead." Holly Cole 11/19, Double Door By marketing this Canadian's fourth American release, It Happened One Night (Metro Blue), at a low "new artist" price, Cole's label must think she'll yet find a wider audience. But her established fan base surely already includes everyone who can stand her narcissistically flamboyant interpretations of a repertoire that conjoins Porter and Sondheim with Ben Watt and Tom Waits. Randy Herman & the Sceptre of Benevolence 11/20, Martyrs' "Big Fat Sylvia," an amazing caffeine-fueled free-jazz rant recounting sundry incidents at an all-night Chicago diner, is the highlight of Feline Spaceship (Bunnycake), just out from this eclectic pianist-singer-songwriter. A man of extremes, Herman addresses levels of being from "Microorganism" to "What Is With This Universe Thing," though at one point he acknowledges the tendency of this approach to trivialize: "I didn't say it because it meant anything; I just said it." Scott Free Trio 11/20, Fireside Bowl This local homocore outfit's forthcoming debut single, "Garbage Man," reveals that even a man of letters isn't beyond a bit of wry punk expression. Gab contributor Free quotes Greek and Latin over a dark melodic hook to laud his lover, then answers himself with a snarl detailing the pair's purification ritual: "He's a garbage man / When he comes home I give him a bath." Mitch 11/21, Double Door Originally formed in Athens, Georgia, but more recently based here, this foursome might cling too much to 80s college-rock conventions to be fashionable at the moment, but a bunch of well-constructed songs and singer Corbett Tyler's gutsy delivery make Split the Difference, slated for release on Beluga early next year, a solid prospect nonetheless.

--Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Randy Herman photo by Dorothy Perry.

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