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HOVEN DROVEN 7/24, SIMON's Tavern; 7/25, green stage at Navy Pier One of the greatest--and most elusive--rewards of my job is that once in a blue moon I get a completely unheralded record that leaves me picking bits of my jawbone off the floor. Groove (Northside), from Swedish "extreme folk" sextet Hoven Droven (the name roughly translates to "Helter-Skelter") is one of those treats. In 70-some minutes this CD packs in Scandinavian-style fiddling--waltzes and polskas by both trad-trained fiddler Kjell-Erik Eriksson and regional fiddlers from the turn of the century--stadium-size drums, and sparingly implemented guitar wanking like Edgar Winter by way of Angus Young, not to mention flugelhorn, congas, saxophones, and a fiercely irreverent reverence toward music and language. (The song titles are explained in English, including "Tjangel," which "means doodley-squat.") Forget all those lurid stories about the Scandinavian metal scene--this stuff can set a fire without so much as a match.

JESUS LIZARD 7/25, METRO With the recently released Blue, its sixth studio LP, this esteemed Chicago quartet takes a few deep breaths between their usual howls and bellows. Now, when other famously loud bands--especially ones approaching their tenth anniversary--start talking about "using the studio" and "branching out," there's often cause for worry. But not this time: produced by Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill, Blue develops the dark funk and blues that were always skulking behind the Jesus Lizard's wall of noise; and if a quiet bit or a bass solo happens to stand out, you can still rest assured that when the other shoe drops it's coming down like an anvil tossed off a 30-story building.

SOUP 7/25, TASTE OF LINCOLN AVENUE If sunburn, long sweaty lines, stanky Porta-Johns, flat beer, corporate logos, the scent of discarded Polish sausage, and creepy couples with their hands in each other's back pockets are your idea of a good time--they must be somebody's--then Atlanta's Soup might be just your $3 cup of lukewarm Nestea, playing the sort of inoffensive, uninspiring sunbaked funk-rock that seems custom-made for summer street fairs. (The band has also designed lots of self-degrading promotions involving board games, leisure suits, and corporate mascots, as if you needed to see yet another negative side effect of unchecked capitalism.) I always wonder where bands like this migrate in the winter--sports bars, I guess.

TEENAGE FRAMES 7/25, METRO The sharp suits and dapper haircuts notwithstanding, Metro's Scootzilla mod rally doesn't seem exactly the place for this north-side quartet's joyfully anarchic trash punk--but then where does it belong in Chicago, where the cult of New York Dolls worship remains a minority faith? A pity, really--I never saw a three-piece suit that wouldn't be improved by a little lipstick.

AMAZING HEADGEAR 7/26, TASTE OF LINCOLN AVENUE Another problem with the Chicago street-fair circuit is that a certain level of decorum is required to keep the neighbors from complaining. The local quintet Amazing Headgear cranks out a sort of busy, post-Chili Peppers alt-funk with real crowd-moving potential, but don't worry--the safe "social commentary" of Kirk Davis's lyrics, which include tirades about TV and the divorce rate, pretty much ensures that there won't be no riot goin' on.

JOHN CALE, CREATURES 7/28 & 29, METRO As Siouxsie & the Banshees' career wound down slowly and painfully, the Creatures--a side project of front woman Siouxsie Sioux and percussionist Budgie--remained a speck of promise. In fact their first two albums were more whimsical, playful, and experimental than the Banshees' later records, where a similar fusion of vamp camp and Eurodisco was never quite as successful. Their forthcoming EP, Eraser Cut (Sioux), doesn't renege on that promise. Its four synth-and-drum-fueled cuts move easily from sunny to creepy, feline to lupine, sweet to sour; its fat-but-not-phat beats are guaranteed to keep dancers moving but always guessing. Underlining this burst of 11th-hour inspiration is the unusual format of the tour: in addition to playing a short solo set as opener, the Banshees' last producer, John Cale, has been backing the Creatures on keyboards, bass, guitar, vocals, and viola on not only their tunes but also Banshees standards, his own material (occasionally including a version of his ultraviolent 1974 gangland epic "Gun" that almost redeems what the Banshees did to it on their 1987 all-covers album Through the Looking Glass), and even the occasional Velvet Underground chestnut.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): John Cale photo by James Crump RSP.

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