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GROOVIE GHOULIES 10/24, FIRESIDE BOWL Defiantly lightweight and wickedly tight, this Sacramento trio has just released Monster Club (Springman), the latest in a long string of records devoted to B-movie themes. Their relentless riffing is so firmly in the Ramones/Queers tradition that the cover of Dee Dee's "Pet Sematary" is indistinguishable in style from the rest of the album (then again, so is the Daniel Johnston cover), and though their campy aesthetic doesn't allow for much depth, I do think "The Lizard King"--an ode to Godzilla--is some kind of brilliant ("Jim Morrison tried to take your throne / A weak attempt in a haze of methadone / Since the 50s you have been the one / The king who came from the land of the Rising Sun"). JERRY JOSEPH & THE JACKMORMONS 10/24, SCHUBAS This power trio shows off its power with a double live CD, Mouthful of Copper (Terminus), recorded during a three-night stand in Butte, Montana, by Betty Cantor-Jackson of Grateful Dead taping fame. In this small-crowd-big-sky setting Joseph's potentially wearying anthemic style comes off as legitimately triumphant, thanks largely to the blistering southern-rock boil of the band--think Drive-By Truckers meet Chris Whitley. OKKERVIL RIVER 10/25, LOGAN SQUARE AUDITORIUM Another show in the Empty Bottle-sponsored series at this lovely and romantic (and drafty and echoey) venue. Down the River of Golden Dreams (Jagjaguwar), the third album from Texas-based Okkervil River, is over-the-top in its dusky melancholy. Surrounding Will Sheff's achy, creaky voice with organ and horns, they're pushing their uniquely abusive take on folk rock toward cabaret and bluesy pop, and there's a bleakness throughout that makes it sound like they're from somewhere a lot colder than Austin. RACHEL'S 10/25, OPEN END GALLERY Over a long career this Louisville ensemble has rarely made its combination of china-doll preciousness and post-rock grandiosity sound any more appealing than you'd think. But something about the new Systems/Layers (Quarterstick), their first release in four years, is less off-putting than usual--I chalk it up largely to the boldness of the string section, which adds a sharp edge of pining up top and full-bodied riffs below, bringing a charge of real life to these formalist dioramas of prettiness. At its coyest this still sounds like chamber music in search of a chamber pot. MANDO DIAO 10/26, SCHUBAS On their debut, Bring 'Em In (Mute), these young Swedes play that classic fuzz-guitar-and-organ sound as if it's new to them at least--props for enthusiasm, and maybe some more for the strangled, extra scruffy soul vocals (though "Motown Blood" sounds more like "Radar Love" than anything from Detroit). But as much as they like to compare themselves (favorably!) to the Who and the Small Faces, there's still one little difference: back then that sound was new to everyone else too. SINGAPORE SLING 10/27, EMPTY BOTTLE Sweeping the U.S. for the second time in only a few months, this Reykjavik-based buzz band is pushing The Curse of Singapore Sling (Stinky), which is a promising taste of addictions to come. For the most part, it's reverent, slightly gothic garage, with a feel for the power of chantlike repetition a la Spacemen 3 (see the hair-raising "Midnight") and the fearsome feedback-drenched density of early Jesus & Mary Chain. All this plus a cover of "Dirty Water"--so far there's very little not to like. CARLA BOZULICH'S RED HEADED STRANGER 10/30, SCHUBAS; 10/31, Candlestick Maker Former Geraldine Fibbers front woman Carla Bozulich and avant guitarist Nels Cline make a fascinating team--there's a natural fierceness in both of them that seems all the stronger when it's restrained. In the latter-day Fibbers and their experimental group Scarnella they operate on a shared frequency that makes the weird seem normal and the down-home seem charged with fear and magic. This is their second time through Chicago behind their latest project, an album revisiting Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger in its entirety. The source material is weird to begin with--it's a sustained look at an antihero driven to violence by grief--and Bozulich and Cline play it fairly straight, with her throaty, black-coffee alto in the center and his ghostly lap steel and guitar winding around it like a cool wind. But there's something dangerous lurking in there, threatening to break out. They've clearly got Willie's blessing: he adds guitar on three tracks and vocals on two. Bozulich and Cline each perform a solo set Wednesday, October 29, at the Candlestick Maker. MOJAVE 3 10/30, ABBEY PUB With the success of his 2002 solo album, Sleeping on Roads, it looked for a minute there like Neil Halstead was about to declare himself Mojave 3's former front man. But apparently not: all members of the Yankophilic British quartet are present and accounted for on Spoon and Rafter (4AD), their first album since 2000. Their trademark sound, a spacey take on brooding Americana, works mostly because the yearning feels genuine, but that earnestness can get them in trouble too: sometimes their melodies and harmonies really are as heartbreakingly beautiful as they seem to think, and other times they're about as affecting as "A Horse With No Name."

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