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DIO, the UNBAND 4/21, HOUSE OF BLUES This year the music industry's wide-load bandwagon appears to be trailer-park-and-tattoo-parlor punk metal, a la Nashville Pussy. But not all the contenders have got the tits or the chops to pull it off, and in some cases I wonder if they're really on the side they claim: what better way to neutralize Dionysian frenzies than by rendering them banal and tedious? If there is such a nefarious conspiracy afoot, the Unband, from Northampton, Massachusetts, are certainly party to it with Retarder (TVT). Compared with their clunky, spiritless, tone-deaf riffage, headliner Dio's latest high-fantasy metal epic, Magica ("It has been a thousand years since the once powerful planet of Blessing lost its life-giving two suns, and countless millennia since the days of the great magicians..."), sounds sincere and even dignified: you certainly can't accuse Ronnie James Dio of cashing in on fashion. But points to whoever put this sold-out bill together for the nice cognitive dissonance. PINEBENDER 4/21, RECKLESS on milwaukee On their new Things Are About to Get Weird (Ohio Gold) this local trio plays a homegrown hybrid of what the kids love these days--math rock with more heart, emo without so many words. Its feverish squall of percolating guitars and calculated tension make ennui seem like the most intense of human emotions. TURNSTYLES 4/21, CUBBY BEAR NORTH This suburban band, whose bassist has jobbed with Sheryl Crow, Brian Wilson, Neil Young, and Paul Shaffer and whose drummer is currently also in the Cupcakes, is trying to make a statement with its new Live in the Studio. "The band felt that they were tight enough to record all of them playing and singing simultaneously, which is almost never done anymore," boasts the PR, but "they did add some tracks later to enhance the sound of the CD." Whoop-de-do--it's still your garden-variety bluesy radio rock. And now there's a mighty big onus on 'em not to suck live. MARTY WILLSON-PIPER 4/21, SCHUBAS You probably remember guitarist Marty Willson-Piper as a crucial part of the layered jangle of the Church, the band once seen as Australia's answer to R.E.M. or the Smiths--though why so many people thought those bands had much in common was always a mystery to me. The Church lacked the mythic ambition of the former and the radical intimacy of the latter, which means that while they never reached those bands' embarrassing lows, they didn't hit their dramatic heights either; for their fans, beauty was enough. Willson-Piper's latest solo album, Hanging Out in Heaven (Heyday), was five years in the making, mostly because somewhere between the time it was started and the time it was finished, Willson-Piper lost touch with California producer Shep Lonsdale, who also recorded the Church's most popular album, 1988's Starfish. I'm wagering that Lonsdale might've been busy with his band Gaelic Storm, the group that entertained the plebes below deck in the movie Titanic. The long-delayed final product is a lovely piece of vintage guitar pop, full of crisp ringing Rickenbacker and soft heart-piercing ooohs, less dated than out of time. Occasionally it's a bit too sweet, but mostly it's just the thing for those evenings when beauty is unquestionably enough. EITHER/ORCHESTRA 4/22, SCHUBAS Formed in 1985 by saxist Russ Gershon, this little big band from Boston developed a reputation as mischievous followers of the post-Mingus bop tradition, not breaking a lot of new ground but inhabiting the turf with fresh intelligence and style. But in 1996, the band went to ground: several members had moved to New York, and Gershon had become a father. The Either/Orchestra that reemerged a couple years later under Gershon, trumpeter Tom Halter, and baritone saxist Charlie Kolhase is quite a different band: the new More Beautiful Than Death (Accurate) draws on Latin jazz, funky fusion, and most dramatically, Afropop: three of the album's tunes are Ethiopian classics given jazz orchestra arrangements. JESSE WINCHESTER 4/22, OLD TOWN SCHOOL Memphis-born singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester has lived in Montreal since 1967, when he decided he didn't want to go to Vietnam. He was supported early on by the Band's Robbie Robertson, who admired his antiwar stance as well as his droll and poignant songs--which over the years have been covered by Jimmy Buffett, Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez, Tom Rush, Elvis Costello, Peter Case, John Denver, and the Weather Girls, not to mention imitated by Lyle Lovett. His first album came out in 1970, but he wasn't allowed to perform in the U.S. until after Jimmy Carter was in the White House. Of his ten LPs, only three date from after 1981, and last year's Gentleman of Leisure (Sugar Hill) was his first in 11 years. To make it worth the wait, he enlisted the talents of folks like Stax legend Steve Cropper (on the mildly bluesy "Club Manhattan"), the Fairfield Four (who harmonize on the gospel-inflected "Wander My Way Home"), country star Vince Gill (who sings backup on the ballad "Just Cause I'm in Love With You"), and steel-guitar whiz Jerry Douglas, who played as well as produced. Winchester's playing solo here; he opens for labelmate Guy Clark. OCEANIA 4/27, DRINK Here's a "where are they now" you won't see on VH1: since 1982, when Killing Joke first broke up, former front man Jaz Coleman has immersed himself in classical composition (despite being responsible for Symphonic Rolling Stones, Symphonic Pink Floyd, and Symphonic Led Zeppelin, for the past six years he's been composer in residence for the Auckland Philharmonia) and ethnomusicology. His interest in Maori culture--the indigenous culture of New Zealand--led him to poet, singer, and broadcaster Hinewehi Mohi, who is of mixed ancestry but remembers her father discovering his own Maori heritage with great enthusiasm when she was a child; ever since, she's studied Maori music and language, in which she writes and sings. Their collaboration, Oceania, would never be mistaken for anything traditional--it's glossy, glimmering world-beat stuff, but it's entrancing at times, and it's meticulously arranged to include ancient instruments. Ballads are not a strong point. --Monica Kendrick

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