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CUBA L.A. 12/15, HOTHOUSE On Navidad Cubana, their second release on Narada, this Los Angeles-based 11-piece group of exiled Cuban musicians puts a fluid shake and shimmer on some of the hoariest Anglo Christmas chestnuts. In a few cases they actually manage to scrape away the waxy buildup these tunes have accumulated in near constant mall airplay--in particular "The Little Drummer Boy," where Afro-Cuban percussion goes full tilt behind Ilmar Gavilan's melancholy violin, or "Good King Wenceslas," where the brass section builds a lively grandeur. But "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" and "Deck the Halls" just don't have much resonance in the Caribbean vernacular. Fortunately the band will fill out the program for this holiday concert with non-Christmas music. MAN OR ASTRO-MAN? 12/15, METRO Trends come and go, but a good shtick is forever. Over the last seven years, these Georgia space cadets have flattened their kitschy surf rock out into high-energy amorphous indie noise. The sound is agreeable enough, but the showmanship is first-rate. In recent years, following through on the assertion that their race reproduced by cloning, they sent several "clone bands" on the road in their stead. Their new album, A Spectrum of Infinite Scale (Touch and Go), brings them closer than ever to Shellac, with electronic burblings just negligible enough to sound like a parody of the last dozen second-rate rock bands that've tried to "broaden their sound." At the band's request, the local comedy troupe Schadenfreude is also on the bill, with an act adapted for the Metro stage; the Rock*a*Teens open. BUMPUS 12/16, ELBO ROOM Stereoscope, the new second album by the local septet Bumpus, showcases the band's trippy, occasionally slinky, and literate collegiate rap funk, which is distinguished in part by the inspired what-the-hell-ness of MC Cardboard Box ("...and when you see me I be standin' out like I was embevelled / I kick the devil out of beats all my life like Aaron Neville"). This is the kind of music that calls for cramming as many people as possible onstage and putting them all to work, and over the years Bumpus has learned to oblige. GREAT CRUSADES 12/16, SCHUBAS Damaged Goods (Checkered Past), the second album by this local quartet, three members of which are named Brian, is a heartland rock record about dating, mating, and relating in Chicago, elucidating all the ways in which Guyville isn't such a great place for a guy either. Singer Brian Krumm, who sounds vaguely like Bruce Springsteen, seems to be trying to do for "Liquor Park" what the Boss did for Asbury Park, but while the band gives a chintzy grandeur to his despair, he lacks Springsteen's evocative talents. The most genuinely moving song is "Gone," a posthumous fan letter to Morphine's Mark Sandman. NASHVILLE PUSSY 12/16, Riviera Fans who haven't seen Nashville Pussy since before the release of their spectacularly mean and greasy High as Hell (TVT) will notice pretty damn quick that something's different: Corey Parks, the freakishly tall, newly stacked bassist, has officially left the band to embark on a solo career she hopes will include collaborating with Lemmy Kilmister and wrestling (but not, as rumored, joining Hole). Well, good luck to her--but what's more interesting is the hurdle her departure sets up for her former mates. The critics who complained that Pussy power was all about the spectacle missed the point: the band's appeal is, on its deepest level, about form following function. In the context of an incredibly tight shitkicking rock band, Parks's fire breathing and her spit-swapping sessions with terrific guitarist Ruyter Suys are no more tiresome or gratuitous than Angus Young's mooning and schoolboy outfits. Parks's replacement, Tracy Almazon, a New Yorker who played drums in the Wives and guitar in Helldorado, doesn't look like she could fill her shoes or her bra, but reportedly she sure can play bass. If it's empty spectacle you're truly after, stick around for Insane Clown Posse's set. Also on the bill are Suicidal Tendencies. JOHN DOE THING, KIRK RUNDSTROM 12/17, EMPTY BOTTLE The Americana genre is a tangled map of fine lines, including those that separate clever from stupid, homage from parody, and faithful study from monkey-see-monkey-do. Kansas boy Kirk Rundstrom, formerly of Scroat Belly and Split Lip Rayfield, does a reasonable job of navigating it on the rootsy beer swingers and barn burners of his solo debut, Wicked Savior (Catamount). The band on the album is eight strong, but for this 7 PM show, he'll be accompanied by Mike West and Myshkin, a New Orleans couple whose performances (he plays banjo and mandolin; she plays mandolin, washboard, and spoons and hollers like a banshee) give the recording some extra oomph. They open for the John Doe Thing. Doe, bassist and songwriter for legendary LA punk band X, has found time between small acting roles and reunion tours to release a couple winning solo records, the latest of which is Freedom Is...(Spinart). Not content to age gracefully, he's become a passionate curmudgeon. On "Too Many Goddamn Bands," the man tells it like it is: "The juice runs out / The power goes down / Everything has that sucking sound." But as jaded as he sounds there, he can still turn a lament for yet another friend dead from drugs into a fiery cry of agony on "Ever After." JINDRA 12/17, BIG HORSE; 12/18, SUBTERRANEAN Appearing in Chicago for the first time in a good while, this prolific Minneapolis eccentric makes most of his music available on-line and also keeps up a steady stream of small-dose, lo-fi releases for sale through the mail. Unwilling to commit to either a label or a regular touring schedule, he invests his time and considerable talents in the study of music, from jazz, bluegrass, and flamenco to industrial and rock, regularly cranking out messages in bottles like his latest three-song demo. It's a lovely, brittle little thing--just a man and a guitar and a gracefully counterintuitive sense of structure. LAND OF THE EL CAMINOS, MORENO, YAKUZA 12/21, METRO A triple bill of local loud rock 'n' roll. Land of the El Caminos' Doll Face (Boojm/Veronica), released last year, mixes Dino Jr-style guitar wailing and passionate but not necessarily tuneful vocalizing with an atypical sensitivity--many of the lyrics sung by Dan Fanelli were written by women, and the penultimate track is a grungy cover of the Cure's "Let's Go to Bed." Moreno, who opened for J Mascis last month at Metro, have more chops but less charm. And the pick of this litter is the quartet Yakuza, whose members are veterans of the Dyslexic Apaches, Ballsniffer, and Made to Fade. The sax-augmented rock on their self-released CD, Amount to Nothing, displays both an obvious reverence for Husker Du and a healthy respect for death metal.

--Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frank Mullen.

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