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MINDS OF BABES 1/24, THURSTON'S The meteoric rises of Liz Phair and Veruca Salt a few years back, and the seething reactions they provoked among musicians still toiling on the local scene, seem to have inspired "Now She's Famous (Queen of the Hill)" ("She's queen of the hill / A bitter pill / She's queen of the hill / Can't fight the supernova"), from this Chicago pop-rock quartet's debut EP, Imaginary Eye (Absolute Zero). Ex-Michael McDermott sideman Danny Shaffer's flashy guitar work brims with the confidence that he and his band mates will soon make it big themselves. But two of the seven songs' lyrics visualize the pinnacle as making the cover of Rolling Stone, and the band's stale, predictable style recalls the distant era when said placement might have carried some weight.

NINETEEN WHEELS 1/24, METRO Curiously, no matter how high this country-tinged Michigan foursome raises its voice or cranks its amps on its debut album, Six Ways From Sunday (Aware), the low volume of memorable material prevents anything like spirit from creeping in.

BATHTUB VIRGINS 1/25, HEARTLAND CAFE The cornball twang of a Jew's harp on the opener, "Cool Drink of Water," portends the failure of this earnest but empty-headed Bloomington, Indiana, quintet to scare up any soul for its debut album, Summertime (Odyssey). The motley lineup, drawn from previous members of something called the Dorkestra, includes a guitarist obsessed with Pink Floyd, a bombastic harmonica player who's worked with Chris Whitley, and a lead singer who, although she can growl a bit, croons the classic Gershwin title track with all the blues feeling of a homecoming queen.

CLOWN LOVE 1/25, EMPTY BOTTLE From the AC/DC album-cover parody to a cover of Ted Nugent's "Free-for-all," this local quartet goofs its way through classic rock conventions, often sounding like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, on the new self-released Highway to Wicker Park. But in trying to be funny, given the built-in absurdity of its sources, Clown Love comes off roughly equal in cleverness to your average suburban tribute band.

COWS 1/25, LOUNGE AX On Whorn, its sixth album for Amphetamine Reptile, this Minneapolis foursome continues to wreak punk havoc, mining a 60s garage groove for "Four Things" and underscoring singer-trumpeter Shannon Selberg's menacing jive with an eerie Dr. Who-like motif on "The Warden."

ASTRUD GILBERTO 1/25, HOUSE OF BLUES She's billed as "The Girl From Ipanema," the title of her only big hit (1964), on which ironically neither her then husband, guitarist-singer Joao Gilberto, nor the song's cowriter, Antonio Carlos Jobim, felt her untrained voice even belonged. But saxophonist Stan Getz insisted that she be included (he also had to persuade Verve, which already viewed the bossa nova fad as faded, to even release the album on which the song appears, now one of the label's perennial sellers), and though she still got to sing only one and a half choruses, she delivered a career-launching performance that directly influenced, for better or worse, the sound of numerous pop and jazz acts to follow, including Sade, Michael Franks, and Everything but the Girl.

--Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Minds of Babes photo by Britt Gregrich.

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