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LYNYRD'S INNARDS 5/23, PRODIGAL SON On their third full-length, Untitled No. 3 (What Else?), these boys next door, still perfecting their I'm-such-a-loser puppy punk, flaunt their sloppiness and show a tendency to creep so close on the heels of a beat they practically stumble over it. The band's self-effacing wit aims to capture hearts instead of firing up adrenal glands: "(We're the) Opening Band," in which not getting laid is almost a badge of pride, could be a small-time answer to Motorhead's "(We Are) The Road Crew." DRESSY BESSY 5/24, SCHUBAS There's something almost scary about Dressy Bessy's Little Music: Singles 1997-2002 (Kindercore). The giddy early-60s fluffiness that cute-sounding vocalist Tammy Ealom and chunka-chiming guitarist John Hill (also of Apples in Stereo) re-create here is simply too good to be true and too slippery to be trusted. Those tinky keyboards, shiny harmonies, and tame tappy-tappy drums add up to a wink of a period piece as flawless as Down With Love--though with a touch more soul. RETURNABLES 5/24, EMPTY BOTTLE Out of print never means forever these days: hearty locals the Returnables are about to see the reissue of their 1999 debut EP, "So When Can I See You Again?", on Jeff Pezzati's Jettison Music label--though with four bonus tracks added to the four originals, it's as much new as old. This is classic-sounding pop punk, a bit on the light side, with lyrics that choose the easy rhyme over, you know, making sense--"Here's to the working class / Rocket ship up your ass!" The Dictators headline. ZZ TOP 5/24, TWEETER CENTER; 5/25, ALPINE VALLEY On their 14th album, Mescalero (RCA, originally set for an April 15 release, now on hold), ZZ Top successfully integrate their tried-and-true boogie blues with the more experimental and sometimes flat-out odd electronics they started playing with in the mid-90s. In addition, there's a sentimental sing-along in Spanish ("Que lastima"); a ballad that except for its drawn-out guitar solo could easily be mistaken for one of Tom Waits's more straightforward weepers ("Goin' So Good"); a weird clunky-guitar-driven hip-hop take on Otis Redding's "Tramp"; and of course a few more traditional barn burners, some of which ("Alley-Gator," "Buck Nekkid") have been part of the band's live set for a couple years now. LEGENDARY SHACK SHAKERS 5/25, ABBEY PUB J.W. Wilkes and Joe Buck recorded their debut, Cockadoodledon't (Bloodshot), as a duo, with drummer Paul Simmons and bassist Mark Robertson as hired guns. Good thing the latter two have signed on as full-time Shakers--it takes some trustworthy rhythm guys to hold down the gibbering mayhem of front man (and killer harp wailer) Wilkes, who draws on an obvious appreciation for rockabilly wild men from Jerry Lee Lewis to Lux Interior for some spastic psycho-killer holy rollin' of his own. Guitarist Buck fills the deadpan Billy Zoom role through 12 scroungy boogie rippers and nervous breakdowns, each one ramshackle on the surface but tight underneath. Also on the bill are Bobby Bare Jr. and the Nashville outfit Flesh Vehicle, fronted by Superdrag bassist Tom Pappas (Robertson plays bass for them too). LOCAL H, SULLEN 5/25, DOUBLE DOOR Local H return to indieland with the new No Fun EP (Thick), and man, do they sound pissed. This monstrous collection of huge riffs, head-on-wall repetition, POTUS-hatin', and Ramones- and Nirvana-lovin' seems designed to smack up anyone who thinks being in the majors wussed them out. They're also playing patron to Sullen, a Saint Louis trio that, were I in an unkind mood, I'd call early-90s revivalists. Their debut, Paint the Moon (Thick), offers a bit of the old Sonic Youth tease and some Hole-istic Barbie-doll torture before settling down to the task at hand--sculpting songs from formless rage atop a flailing beat. IAN McCULLOCH 5/25, PARK WEST Back in the 80s Ian McCulloch made a big deal out of his dark, bookish influences--the Doors, the Velvets, stuff like that--but the chiming grandeur of Echo & the Bunnymen's cathedral pop obviously owed a lot to the Beatles as well. He plays up that poppier side on his new solo album, Slideling (Cooking Vinyl/SpinArt)--a wise move, considering the travesty his contemporary Ian Astbury has committed with that 21st Century Doors crap. Less arch and ambitious than the music McCulloch has made with the Bunnymen (who are on hiatus), the album is personable and almost excessively accessible. Longtime fans Chris Martin and Johnny Buckland of Coldplay contribute to two tracks. FAGS 5/29, DOUBLE DOOR I suppose the girly legs and butt on the insert of the Fags' self-titled Idol Records EP are there to assure us that these Detroit boys aren't really you-know-whats. They claim to be named after the Brit term for cigarettes. They also claim to be tired of people talking more about their name than their music. But that's what they get for using a moniker that deserves to be hung on something much more compelling and subversive than this extremely forgettable fusion of power pop and hard rock. VIZA-NOIR 5/29, EMPTY BOTTLE I've gotten so used to Viza-Noir playing around town it's hard to believe the local trio is only now releasing its first full-length album (No Record, due in June on Flameshovel). Apparently the band has spent the past five years honing, honing, honing: the album is densely packed, brightly polished, and filler free. Every tricky shift, metallic clang, and derailed melody is there for a reason, an honor to its Mission of Burma/Killing Joke/Shellac heritage instead of a cheap retread.

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

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