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AUDREYS 4/30, EMPTY BOTTLE; 5/7, SUBTERRANEAN Though they've been at work in Chicago for two years, the Audreys are only now releasing their debut recording, #13 (No Holds Barred). Earlier, unreleased material from the band has been making the rounds--some of it produced by Voidoids guitarist Ivan Julian--but this EP is all new. Deceitfully simple and bittersweet a la Television or the Velvets (with a touch of Karl Precoda in the blazing psychedelic solo of "The Paisley Sound"), this is what the Strokes should've been. EINSTURZENDE NEUBAUTEN 4/30, METRO Still cold-blooded but getting romantic in its old age, this quarter-century-old German institution is every bit as distinctive playing wistfully wicked art pop as it was back in the days of scrap-metal orchestration and whip-crack hostility. Lately Neubaten's become almost approachable: its latest album, Perpetuum Mobile (Mute), was funded in part by a subscription system on www.neubauten.org that allows fans to buy into such perks as demo and live recordings, access to a studio cam, and the option to offer feedback on the works in progress. Though this enterprise has undoubtedly caused much gnashing of teeth among those who've never forgiven the loss of FM Einheit, it's still a pretty interesting experiment to watch. GRAHAM PARKER & THE TWANG THREE 4/30, MARTYRS' I don't think this 30-year veteran is jumping on anybody's bandwagon with Your Country, his debut for Chicago's own Bloodshot label, so much as he's letting a side of himself out to play. "Nation of Shopkeepers" could easily be this very English Englishman's way of letting us know he feels a bit silly in his metaphorical cowboy hat (though he's got to know he'd look way better in a real one than Dubya)--not so silly, however, that he won't enlist Lucinda Williams as a dirty sex bomb (on "Cruel Lips") or try repeatedly to beat Dylan's Blood on the Tracks-era record for most words crammed artfully into a line. A gracefully distorted reflection of Americana--and not always the blues, either--has long lurked in British rock anyway, and Parker's as good at teasing it out as Elvis Costello ever has been. LAKE TROUT 5/1, SCHUBAS This Baltimore band stirs together a strange melange of jam band gesticulation, noodly electronica, and wandering space rock. On their fourth album, Another One Lost (Rx/Palm), their sound seems to have matured, or at least congealed--it's restless, dark, a little bit busy, and perennially unfocused, as though they've been staring into the middle distance for so long that now they can't make out the set list. Woody Ranere's goofily earnest voice somehow saves the record from its most pretentious tendencies--even when he's trying his hardest to sound all pro, he comes off more like an anemic Ozzy or Neil Young at his squeakiest. Hell, none of the players in the Grateful Dead could sing either, and people thought that was endearing. MICHAEL McDERMOTT 5/1, METRO Ashes (Pauper Sky), forthcoming in June, is this popular Chicago singer-songwriter's first album since 2000. Lots of cooks have had their fingers in this broth, including producers who've worked with Shawn Colvin, LeAnn Rimes, Steve Earle, and the Stone Roses. And man, does it sound big--I haven't heard the likes of the drum sound on "Dance With Me" since the heyday of Bon Jovi. I get the feeling that lots of McDermott's fans like him as a pub singer, with a bit of Celtic spirituality and a bit of Springsteen's street-poet ambition. I think I'd like him better that way too: most of these songs have such striking lyrics that they'd be more interesting accompanied by nothing but a guitar or two, or maybe a fiddle and a hand drum. OUTRAGEOUS CHERRY 5/1, BOTTOM LOUNGE Does it still count as nostalgia if the feeling you're trying to recapture isn't tied to any particular point in time? For five decades now psychedelic rock has been driven by a hunger to "get ourselves back to the Garden"--though the Garden has only ever existed in dreamland. Most of Outrageous Cherry's latest, last year's Supernatural Equinox (Rainbow Quartz), stimulates pleasure centers that for me have nothing much to do with the 60s and everything to do with my abiding love for Rain Parade's Emergency Third Rail Power Trip and Explosions in the Glass Palace--lush, orientalist third-generation distillations that came out in the 80s but still don't sound dated (nostalgia ages pretty well when it's for something that never was). The sixth album from this decadent, baroque Detroit band hits the same buttons but harder--these folks have got a lot more Hawkwind-style overdrive in 'em. Pun of the year to date: "behind the Venusian blind." 50 FOOT WAVE 5/2, SCHUBAS This brand-new trio includes two members of the recently reunited (and re-broken up) Throwing Muses, front woman Kristin Hersh and bassist Bernard Georges. Formed in October, the band already has a six-song self-titled CD available at their Web site (throwingmusic.com), and they intend to release another EP every nine months (a production schedule that Hersh, mother of four, must be used to by now). The first disc rocks harder than anything Hersh has done in a while--it's kind of scary to think there's so much energy still struggling to get out, considering that she's released two full-length albums in the past year. BUTCHIES 5/5, SCHUBAS This Durham-based trio, featuring two former members of Team Dresch, was once considered a groundbreaking force in lesbian punk rock--but their fourth album, Make Yr Life (Yep Roc), doesn't sound like it has radical ambitions at all. For all its lustiness, the power pop here is streamlined and professional, right down to the aching slow-dance number "Everything + Everywhere" and the obligatory rocker-girl ode "She's So Lovely." But perhaps normal is the new radical. MANTA RAY 5/5, EMPTY BOTTLE Four albums in, this Spanish quartet is still getting better. Estratexa (Film Guerrero), its first U.S. release, is dark and hypnotic, jagged and challenging, with a restless antipop sensibility. Anybody looking for something that simultaneously takes after Can and Bauhaus, start here--Manta Ray don't seem to have those bands' natural playfulness or talent for surprise, but otherwise they really do merit the Dropping of Big Names. They share this bill with former Come front woman Thalia Zedek, a friend, tourmate, and occasional collaborator since 1997.

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

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