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DIVISION OF LAURA LEE 1/24, DOUBLE DOOR Division of Laura Lee front man Per Stalberg has some harsh words for his fellow Swedish invaders. "We know all the bands but we are not from the same scene as them," he recently told the Brooklyn Web zine Free Williamsburg. "We play music because we love it. We don't have to buy our attitudes. We don't have to buy our stage clothes because we have been through the fucking hard shit....I don't say everyone from Sweden pretends, but it's a lot about fashion." (Thank God they don't have that problem in Williamsburg.) Judging from the Division's 2002 full-length on Burning Heart Records, Black City (produced by Kalle Gustavsson of Soundtrack of Our Lives), the scruffy kids don't sound all that different from the fashionistas. LOST SOUNDS 1/25, BEAT KITCHEN This Memphis quartet is aptly named: while neo-postpunks of all kinds are cannibalizing 80s sonics, a heap of that decade's sweetest bitter sounds remains neglected. The band's second album, Black Wave (Empty), surges with a dark, nervous energy that's drawn comparisons to Joy Division and Wire, but I hear the hairy, bloody chaos of the Birthday Party, combined with American skankiness and soul in a way that reinforces my belief in the connection between the blues and goth rock. On the new Rat's Brains & Microchips (also on Empty), the band ups the intensity and the anxiety, with keyboards powered by a Deep Purplish warp drive. The Ponys and Combo #3 open. REALITY ROCK SHOW 1/26, METRO I know--Sharon Osbourne has cancer and a hit reality show. Still, the "reality TV" theme chosen by the organizers of this benefit (for the National Lymphedema Network and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation) doesn't seem particularly relevant. Then again, Hot Water Music, Hey Mercedes, the Ghost, and the Exit are about as "real" as it gets. The prefab dynamic effects and tempo changes they use have become such universal shorthand for emotional intensity that even the band members seem convinced of their own sincerity. Solea, the new project from Johnny Cruz of Samiam and Garrett Klahn of Texas Is the Reason, opens. WRITTEN IN THE SAND 1/27, EMPTY BOTTLE Travis Murphy and Matthew Roan claim to have organized this local sextet when members of their other band showed up late to practice. On their first full-length, 47 Ursae Majoris (Johann's Face), they work yet another variation on the signature sound of Chicago underground pop--too-sweet indie tunes rendered with mannered, studio-hound craftiness. But the results sound like a labor of love, thanks in part to lyrics like those on "Love Is Enough" ("...to start our band"). The science fiction themes--which express, as always, the utopian hopes and self-conscious smart-aleckyness of the gentle geek--don't hurt either. With the addition of synth whiz Michael Perkins, late of Sig Transit Gloria, the band now features three keyboardists, each with an armory of his own, and together they update the space-age romance of new wave in a warm, inviting sprawl. JOHNNY MARR & THE HEALERS 1/28, DOUBLE DOOR Though his guitar work was as integral to the Smiths' sound as Morrissey's flamboyant mopery, Johnny Marr was often overshadowed by his iconic mate, and he was consigned to hired-gun status for most of the 90s. But his stock is climbing: Britpop guitarists from Jonny Greenwood to Noel Gallagher have listened behind the lyrics and cited Marr as an influence, and this year Guitar Player recognized him with a cover story. Boomslang (iMusic), Marr's first album with his new band, the Healers, is a genuine comeback, a guitarist's album with the fluidity of Santana and the feyness of T. Rex. The Healers are Alonza Bevan of Kula Shaker and Zak Starkey, sometime drummer for the Who and full-time son of Ringo. The show is sold-out. THE SUN 1/28, SCHUBAS When is a Columbus band not a Columbus band? When it spends a little time in LA and comes home with a Warner Brothers contract. But while folks back in Ohio are understandably wary, the Sun is no corporate petri-dish concoction. Singer-guitarist Chris Burney has backed respected singer-songwriter Tim Easton for years, and drummer Sam Brown has drummed for Gaunt, V-3, and the New Bomb Turks; the other two members, guitarist Bryan Arendt and bassist Brad Forsblom, also play with Burney in an art-pop outfit called Flotation Walls. The band has officially released its demos (coproduced by Wilco ejectee Jay Bennett, who opens) as its debut EP, Love & Death. The six infectious songs are typical garagey roots-rock fare, marked by an undercurrent of existential terror: they're familiar, but never quite comfortable. This show kicks off a four-week Tuesday residency at Schubas. JENNY CHOI & THE THIRD SHIFT 1/30, HIDEOUT Local singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Jenny Choi sings like Stevie Nicks on helium, but she's made that potential liability into a winning signature sound. Her band's second album, Grand and Ashland (Ona), was a huge hop forward; the three-song demo they're using to promote their forthcoming third is even more assured. It's dreamy stuff--the band engulfs Choi's melancholy squeak in a cloud of guitar filigrees, for a sound that's equal parts smoove jazz and jam band. Not my cuppa, particularly, but respectable.

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

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