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BONGZILLA 9/12, FIRESIDE BOWL These veterans of both Milwaukee Metalfest and Weedstock seem to be getting more and more versatile--on their most recent album, Gateway (Relapse, 2002), their Sabbath-Surfers sound feels lighter on its feet, less dogged than previously. The subject matter, however, is unrelenting (see "Weed Thumb," "Sunnshine Green," "Keefmaster"--the last a shuffling, pounding monster of a track), earning them the parental-warning badge of honor the hard way, with no hint of sex or violence and practically no cussing. CELLDWELLER 9/12, BOTTOM LOUNGE Circle of Dust veteran Klayton, a Michigan native transplanted to New York, isn't about to make the mistake of letting his metal-inflected industrial music get too glossy. Though his new project, Celldweller, sounds unmistakably post-NIN and postrave, there's grit and rust in its grooves. The live show should provide performance-art flourishes, projections, and a jarring dose of rockism. Acumen Nation, celebrating a new release, headlines. HURRICANE LAMPS 9/12, SCHUBAS The D.C.-area Hurricane Lamps sneak their lusty experimentalist tendencies in under a cheerful, chiming blanket of Wedding Present/the Clean/Superchunk worship, like a dog's medicine tucked inside raw meat. Listening to their fourth album, Sing Me a Song, you're rooting for Eric Tischler's exhilarating guitar squall to break out of the cutesy cage. But even that cage is stronger than you'd think. GOLDRUSH 9/13, EMPTY BOTTLE Apparently, getting dicked over by Virgin Records was the best thing that could have happened to these guys. On Extended Play--recorded at their own studio and released in January on their own Truck Records--there's a newfound ease to their sweeping, decadently orchestrated sound. They've recently joined forces with ex-Ride front man Mark Gardener; Goldrush will play a full set, after which Gardener will play solo acoustic and then lead the band in a set of Ride tunes and new stuff they've collaborated on. NATALIE MACMASTER 9/13, CELTIC FEST I'll listen to Cape Breton fiddle virtuoso Natalie MacMaster play just about anything--her liquid-fire chops comply with all highfalutin hi-fi standards without losing that slightly scratchy, tugging sound that distinguishes the fiddle from the violin. That said, Blueprint (Rounder), her Nashville collaboration with the likes of Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, and John Cowan, should be approached with realistic expectations: while the commonalities between Cape Breton music, Celtic music, and bluegrass are many and worth exploring, fusions like this necessarily sand off some authenticity. Those who find the greatest joy in the specific and the singular will notice that this pleasant CD lacks the actual smells and weather of any real place. Live, of course, expect plenty of home cooking, served hot. REIGNING SOUND 9/13, SUBTERRANEAN Led by Memphis record-store owner Greg Cartwright (once known as Greg Oblivian, of the Oblivians and the Compulsive Gamblers), the Reigning Sound stands out from the crowd of garage bands trying to revive the 60s by borrowing freely from the decades on either side. Its 2002 debut, Time Bomb High School (In the Red), brings to mind a streetful of finger-snapping, switchblade-toting delinquents all hopped up on R & B, as if those old right-wing fantasies about the pernicious influence of the stuff had come true. But self-aware, glammy grime a la the New York Dolls and wistful Blonde on Blonde organ aren't off-limits either. MICHELLE MALONE 9/15, GUNTHER MURPHY'S Stompin' Ground (credited to Moanin' Michelle Malone & the Low-Down Georgia Revue) is Malone's eighth album but only her second for Amy Ray's Daemon label. Both Indigo Girls make cameos, and so do folks who've played with Sinead O'Connor, Sheryl Crow, and Willie Nelson, which should give you some idea of the turf Malone's trying to stake out. But the most striking element is a thread of throaty, sprawling white blues: emanations of Janis, Dylan, the Exile-era Stones, and Faces-era Rod Stewart appear and vanish again in the wafting BBQ smoke, and Malone's slide guitar is capable of saying at least as much as her voice. DIGABLE CAT 9/16, DOUBLE DOOR I'm not sure what to make of these locals' new Skratch Traxx (released on their own Blue Tortoise label), and I'm not sure they were either: part indie soul, part jam band, part power pop, they think they're supposed to check "all of the above" every time. This was conceived as a studio project that would worry about playing live later, but singer Susie Lofton and multi-instrumentalists Gregg Mandel and Nathan Syfrig seem ready to be the core of a real band--Syfrig's violin work achieves a soaring interplay with guitar and saxophone that transcends mere wankery. YOUNG HEART ATTACK 9/18, FIRESIDE BOWL Trying to sound like AC/DC has become a more popular indie-rock strategy than anyone might have predicted, but this Austin outfit manages better than most to capture that greasy-long-haired glory on its late-2002 debut EP, Mouthful of Love (XL Recordings/Beggars Group). One fresh thing it's got going is coed call-and-response vocals; the notion of John Doe and Exene in Camaro-and-mullet chic is a helluva hoot for anyone who can remember how seriously those camps were once at odds. Of course, such hybrids aren't uncommon these days, but this one sounds real good: desperate punk chaos with much libido and guitar soloing. (None of which explains why the chorus on the title track reminds me so much of the Monkees theme.)

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