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BROTHER BROTHER 7/18, vic In spite of singer Matt Spiegel's beautiful (if studied) soul croon, these Chicago Music Awards nominees seem doomed to the role of Miss Congeniality: their middling intellectual funk shoots for George Clinton but falls somewhere short of Boz Scaggs. And while their lack of hubris seems friendly enough at first, this kind of thing needs a little hubris, dunnit?

GIRLS 7/19, Double Door Jason Batchko, who fronts this all-boy local trio, could offer no explanation for the name beyond "it seems to suit the music...I guess." Which kind of makes sense: the New York Dolls weren't girls, and the New York Dolls-worshiping Mystery Girls weren't girls either. On their six-song demo, these Girls purvey a tight yet sloppy, new yet old-school punk that's at least as fresh as Rancid--and carry on the fine tradition of decrying "attitude" while oozing it from every pore.

MISS MURGATROID 7/19, Lounge Ax; 7/20, Logan Beach cafe A run-down Paris cafe, crumbling Mayan ruins in the jungle, the underside of a rusty, rickety train, a war council room from a barbarian movie--these are just a few of the places soundscaper Miss Murgatroid (Alicia J. Rose of Portland, Oregon) can take a listener with her vintage accordion. Her second full-length, Myoclyonic Melodies (Win), features guest appearances by John Fahey and Blowhole's Patrick Barber; she herself has lent a hand on weirdness by Caroliner, Negativland, and Steel Pole Bath Tub. But she doesn't need any help to push the possibilities of her underrated instrument into the stratosphere. She opens for the Strangulated Beatoffs and U.S. Maple (see Critic's Choice) on Saturday.

PROBERS 7/19, Empty Bottle This mostly instrumental Milwaukee sextet has loaded up its debut CD with sleazy cathouse rock, lifting freely from the blues, rockabilly, honky-tonk, and even psychedelia--though never enough to draw the focus too far above the waist. (And as you've probably guessed, these guys can't leave their organ alone.) But they should consider being a bit more creative in their borrowings: "Syncopated Blah2" is very obviously X's "The Hungry Wolf," and "Steak and Eggs" is certainly a composite of three or four ZZ Top tunes.

JUSTIN HAYWARD 7/20, House of Blues The Moody Blues front man's prodigious compositional output is apparently more than his creaky old gang can muster the orchestral fervor for; hence his latest solo album, The View From the Hill. It's utterly saccharine stuff--imagine an earnest, sexless Bryan Ferry recording for Windham Hill. I can't imagine who this appeals to. Then again, according to Rolling Stone, "Nights in White Satin" was one of the top ten prom songs for 1996.

--Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Miss Murgatroid.

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