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JONAS 1/31, THURSTON'S This Minneapolis foursome cloaks scaled-down Led Zeppelinisms in a chintzy gothic gauze on its recent front-parlor-recorded CD, Hopeless in Gaza (My Spleen!/Channel 83); acoustic guitarist and lead vocalist Sarah Khan drags poor Debbie Harry into the mess by launching into the "man from Mars" routine from "Rapture" near the end of "I Can Fly."

RENFIELDS 1/31, METRO On its latest CD, Sounds of Romance, Sounds of Horror (Afterglo), this garage-rock trio, formed seven years ago in De Kalb, evokes the raved-up, protopsychedelic spirit of early Yardbirds. But the overbearing rhythm guitar provides little room or incentive for the development of vocal melodies, resulting in an imbalance that lessens the music's appeal considerably.

ANDREW BIRD 2/1, SCHUBAS Squirrel Nut Zippers frontman and multi-instrumentalist Jimbo Mathus will team up with eclectic local violinist Bird to perform material from the latter's new self-released CD, Music of Hair (no relation to the 60s tribal love-rock musical). A melange of ethnic, swing, and cabaret styles, the disc finds Bird warbling German verse and linking snatches of Ravel, old-time hoedown, straight-ahead jazz, and free-form dissonance with the sweep of a bow.

BLASTERS 2/1, HOUSE OF BLUES Making a rare appearance outside of southern California, this seminal, rollicking roots outfit--now a four-piece--plans to put out a new live album on Private Music later in the year. Surviving from the original early-80s lineup are bassist John Bazz and singer Phil Alvin (brother Dave left to join X in 1986), whose latest side project is the Faultline Syncopators, a Dixieland combo featuring other west-coast scene veterans.

My Scarlet Life 2/1, Metro Chicagoan Preston Klik, the big cheese behind the now defunct Big Hat, perpetuates the goth froth with this new quartet. When not using a pair of beguiling sirens to voice his narcissistic concerns ("How attractive am I / When I feel like / A goddamn freak?"), he's whipping up an ambience that might appeal to Enya fans on the prowl for something a little funkier.

SCROAT BELLY 2/1, LOUNGE AX; 2/2, FIRESIDE BOWL This electric bluegrass-country quartet from Wichita momentarily dazzled me with its clean execution of lightning-fast runs at breakneck tempos on Daddy's Farm, its first album for Chicago's insurgent country label Bloodshot. But aside from some haunting three-part vocal harmony on the tension-driven "Swing Colonel," the static, uninspired originals by guitarist-vocalists Kirk Rundstrom and Roy Wayne Gottstine fail to provide any contextual grit for the fireworks display. --Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Scroat Belly photo.

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