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Spot Check 

GUSTER 10/10, HOUSE OF BLUES Supposedly these guys have a huge following in their native Boston, and I don't doubt it: since Jerry kicked there's an infinite market for aimless jam rock. A lot of people like Budweiser, too.

TIM O'BRIEN 10/10, ABBEY PUB West Virginia native Tim O'Brien's acoustic country steers a course between romanticism and fatalism, propelled by a devastating flair for minor-key melody. His When No One's Around (Sugar Hill), produced and played on by Nashville slide-guitar master Jerry Douglas, shows a promising flexibility--he makes jazz-inflected gospel convincing ("Out on the Rolling Sea") and pulls off an apocalyptic wrist-slitter ("River of Blood").

STEVE WYNN 10/11, Empty Bottle On his new Sweetness and Light (Zero Hour), Wynn leaves behind the last of his Dream Syndicate-era Lou Reedisms and Neil Youngitudes for a less distinctive college-rock jangle. He's still a wry songwriter, but those who don't listen to lyrics might be excused for thinking the album's title isn't ironic--although the large band on the new album can play everything from 12-string guitar to glockenspiel, the eerie, fluid backing of Come on last year's Melting in the Dark was far more effective. For this tour, with the Continental Drifters (see Critic's Choice), Wynn's band includes Peter Holsapple and former Dream Syndicate bassist Mark Walton, and reports from the road indicate that other Drifters are likely to jump in.

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A BAT? 10/12, LOUNGE AX Kitty Brazelton and Dafna Naphtali are two New Yorkers hell-bent on demonstrating that electronic doesn't have to mean inorganic. Naphtali is studio director of New York University's Music Technology program, and Brazelton fronts the boisterous, orchestral downtown art-rock outfit Dadadah. At 3 PM they open the nine-hour marathon concert that climaxes Women's Avant Fest '97, a wildly mixed bag that also features Yoko Noge with vocalist Elijah Levi and bassist Tatsu Aoki (yes, there are a few guys); Madison improvisational keyboardist Joan Wildman; the Claudia Perez Trio; and New York composer Marie McAuliffe backed by local trombonist Sara P. Smith, bassist Liz Payne, and percussionist Michael Zerang.

BOWERY ELECTRIC 10/14, Double Door With each release this New York duo gets heavier on the beats and denser in the dark atmospherics department. You won't ever mistake this stuff for hip-hop, no matter what you've read--it's still more interior than exterior, more opium den than street, more drone than Bone Thugs. The pair's latest, Vertigo (Kranky/Beggars Banquet), features remixes of tracks from its previous Beat by such luminaries as Colin Newman and Third Eye Foundation, most of which lay on the viscous freak juice nice and thick. My only complaint is that the skipping-CD trick is getting really old.

MR. T EXPERIENCE, GROOVIE GHOULIES 10/14, METRO The boys in the Mr. T Experience are lucky the genre they've chosen to slavishly perpetuate--adolescent power-pop--ages well, because they've been at it a long time, as the name would imply. "Swiss Army Girlfriend" is the only song title on the new Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You (Lookout) that's as clever as it wants to be. Also on this early all-ages bill are the much less cloying Munsters punks Groovie Ghoulies, who pad out their shtick ("Graveyard Girlfriend," "Zombie Crush," "Chupacabra") with well-chosen covers of Daniel Johnston and Wilson Pickett.

CAPTURED BY ROBOTS 10/15, FIRESIDE BOWL I have no concrete information about this band--only a cassette and a letter (postmarked San Francisco) asking for help from a poor human who has been abducted and enslaved by the sadistic, contemptuous musical robots he created. As shtick goes, I've seen worse--somebody's gotta pick up where Man or Astroman? left off. The little rock opera he sent manages to mix in everything that's unholy about early Rush and Six Finger Satellite, and in small doses, it's entertaining. But after a while you start to think maybe the robots are right to despise humans.

SPORTSGUITAR 10/15, LOUNGE AX Switzerland's Sportsguitar, whose second LP, Married 3 Kids, was picked up by Matador this summer, have claimed to resent the stereotype of the cute, fuzzy European pop band (hence past rhymes like "I am pretty sick since you last kissed my dick"), but their music does tend toward the charming--lots of jangling and chiming and catchy refrains, with the occasional burst of friendly distortion. I say these boys should embrace their inner Knack and get on with their lives. --Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Guster photo by Liz Linder.

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