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WEIRD WAR 4/9, EMPTY BOTTLE This Drag City project from Ian Svenonius has been hard to follow, and a little hard to care about. It started out as a sloppy, self-indulgent all-star band, then (under the name Scene Creamers) put out a second album that sounded like it was still trying to decide if it was a joke or not. But the stripped-down trio's new If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bite 'Em has been worth all the waffling. It's fierce, sexy, angry, and ridiculously white funk that retrofits Sly and Parliament for an indie-post-neo-garage scene whose ass has become unshakable under the weight of all those hyphens--and it not only works, it makes more passionate, greasy sense than anything Svenonius did with the Make-Up (even that song about Tess of the D'Urbervilles). DRAPES 4/10, SUBTERRANEAN The third and final night of Horizontal Action's Chit-Cago Showcase is also a release party for this local trio's second outing, Swollen (Orange), due out on the 27th. I loved the earlier Shine On, Sweetheart, and listening to the new one I'm not sure if there's much more room for improvement to their thick and gritty power-trio garage sound. I suppose they could get even tighter and faster, or Kevin McDonough's guitar leads could get even more soulful. Or they could stretch out more with tempos and moods, as on the heavy, brooding "Coffee Can." Also on the bill: Baseball Furies, Plastic Crimewave Sound, Vee Dee, and others; check the listings for the entire schedule, which also includes the Tyrades and the Functional Blackouts. STARLITE DESPERATION 4/10, THE VIC The things that haven't killed Starlite Desperation include a relocation from the Bay Area to Detroit, a breakup, and a move back to Cali (LA this time), and they sound stronger than ever on the forthcoming Violate a Sundae EP (Cold Sweat). A leap ahead of their last record, 1999's Go Kill Mice, it's still hysterically historical in its classic-punk-writ-large swagger and cry, but Dante Aliano's melodic sense turns "Frustration" and "Born to Be Dizzy" into hunks of hot glam. They open for the Rapture and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. MELT-BANANA 4/11, METRO Pity that the term "light metal" is already associated with stuff that doesn't deserve it. I've often tried to imagine something that's huge like metal but nimble as a hummingbird, and not much comes closer than the decade-old Japanese band Melt-Banana. Much ballyhoo has been made about their branching into actual pop on last year's Cell-Scape (A-Zap), but I wouldn't quite call it that: sounds to me like their pacing is at last getting as elastic as their actual playing--it's still a breakneck ride overall, but now sometimes they'll slow down to savor the very alien terrain. Their records can be purifying or aggravating depending on your mood; their mighty rep is justified, ultimately, in their live show. Fantomas (see Critic's Choice) headlines. PACIFIC UV 4/14, BOTTOM LOUNGE The sensitive guys in Pacific UV say they scrapped their first attempt at a debut album after concluding that daytime sessions had made the sounds too bright ("you could literally hear the sunshine on the tracks"), then rerecorded everything at night by candlelight. A load of crap, maybe, but their attention to ambience and timing pays off on the final version (self-titled, on Warm), which is slightly drony and very spacey, haunting and sweet, with a bit of Mazzy Star and Sigur Ros to it. CANDY BUTCHERS 4/15, DOUBLE DOOR On the Candy Butchers' new Hang on Mike (Sony), a croony pop sensibility and collegiate-indie chops--sort of Tommy Keene meets Warren Zevon--conceal the bite of Mike Viola's lyrics about meeting, managing, and letting go. But then "Painkillers," which is about the death of Viola's wife from cancer, opens up a whole new dimension of poignancy. The Figgs headline; their forthcoming Palais is due in May.

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

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