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THE NEW YEAR 7/15-16, SCHUBAS Matt and Bubba Kadane have been playing the same strain of minimalist indie rock since the mid-90s, first in Bedhead and, since 1998, in the New Year. Now a sextet, the band is back with its second full-length, The End Is Near (Touch and Go). The songs still move slowly for the most part, with the brothers' vocal melodies drifting tentatively through mesmerizing passages of interlocking guitar, and the mood is still pretty uniformly downcast--but in a few spots the band cranks it up in a way they rarely have in the past, reminding me a bit of Silkworm (with whom Matt sometimes moonlights on keyboards). DE LA SOUL 7/16, HAROLD WASHINGTON CULTURAL CENTER It's easy to forget that De La Soul turned hip-hop on its head with their 1989 debut, Three Feet High and Rising. Since then their whimsical eclecticism has become one of the genre's touchstones, so they don't sound revolutionary anymore--but that hardly means they've been on autopilot for 15 years. (For one thing, they introduced the tuneful flow of Mos Def to the world back in 1996.) The new compilation De La Mix Tape: Remixes, Rarities & Classics (Tommy Boy/Rhino) demonstrates the group's unusually consistent creativity: they've always pushed the envelope while maintaining their devotion to hip-hop fundamentals, and the anything-goes spirit of early favorites like "Me Myself and I" makes the southeast Asian flavors Badmarsh & Shri drop into their remix sound perfectly natural. This concert is part of the weekly "Neo Soul Explosion" series, which continues for the rest of the summer at the new Harold Washington center (47th and King). THE VANISHING 7/16, SUBTERRANEAN Retreads of electro and New York punk-funk are still the most ubiquitous manifestations of the 80s fever that's been sweeping underground rock for the past few years, but this San Francisco trio revisits an even more threadbare genre: goth rock. On last year's Songs for Psychotic Children (GSL) the Vanishing turns in a rinky-dink Sisters of Mercy imitation, with flavorless synthesizers instead of guitars. Though bassist and singer Jesse Eva seems to be aiming for the icy drone of Siouxsie Sioux, she ends up sounding like Lydia Lunch at her most strident and tuneless. When's someone going to tell the kids that this stuff sucked the first time around? GIPSY KINGS 7/17, CHICAGO THEATRE Since making a splash in the U.S. in 1987 with "Bamboleo" (if you've been in a tapas restaurant in the past 15 years, you've heard it), the Gipsy Kings have consistently aimed for the lowest common denominator, glitzing up their flamenco rumba with synthesizers and driving drums--which is precisely what makes the group's new album, Roots (Nonesuch), such a pleasant surprise. Produced by Craig Street (Cassandra Wilson, Susana Baca) and recorded in an old farmhouse in Languedoc, Roots lives up to its name: the fluid, fiery guitar solos are driven by the pulse of the songs, not by hyperactive rhythm tracks, and the arrangements rely on acoustic guitars, upright bass (played by American jazzer Greg Cohen), and traditional flamenco percussion (hand claps and cajon, or box drum), all of which gives the passionate vocals of Nicolas and Canut Reyes more room to breathe. Some of the melodies are still poppy, and there are a few guest musicians--the Band's Garth Hudson on accordion, kora player Yakouba Sissoko, Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista--but this time out the additions are tasteful. EVERLAST 7/20, HOUSE OF BLUES Though he still builds his music on top of breakbeats, on White Trash Beautiful (Island/Def Jam) former House of Pain front man Everlast sounds more like a hackneyed MOR rocker than a hip-hopper: he strums an acoustic guitar and sings in a deep, braying voice that's reaching hard for a bluesman's authenticity. His lyrics, alas, are clumsy and prosaic even by rock standards: the bulk of the record chronicles how he screwed up a relationship by making all the usual mistakes--taking her for granted, ignoring her, being mean to her. (I guess he never thought of taking her to an avant-garde nightclub in Paris.) In "Sleepin' Alone" (which actually contains the rhyme "Word to P. Diddy / I treated her shitty") he insists that he's sick of cliches, and I believe him--who wouldn't be, after packing them into all 15 songs of an album? The bio that accompanied my copy of the CD claims that the tune "This Kind of Lonely" is "so real it begins with the sound of actual rain drops, which Everlast recorded by sticking a microphone outside the window of his room." Heavy. BOTTLE ROCKETS 7/21, SUBTERRANEAN On last year's terrific Blue Sky (Sanctuary), the Bottle Rockets' Brian Henneman made another bid to be crowned America's working-class poet laureate. "Lucky Break" is a swell fuck-you to Dubya's disingenuous economic progress reports--the "break" in question is a broken bone, which allows the narrator to live out a cynic's version of the American dream, pulling in workers' comp and convalescing at home. And "Baggage Claim" turns a mundane complaint about heightened airport security measures--the narrator used to meet his girlfriend at the gate, but now he has to wait for her at the baggage claim--into a moving expression of post-9/11 anxiety. Better still, Henneman's first-class lyrics have a first-class band backing them up, playing a sharp hybrid of shit-kicking country rock and badass southern boogie. DELAYS 7/21, MARTYRS' I never thought I'd hear another singer who sounded like Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins--and I certainly didn't expect it to be a man. But Greg Gilbert, who fronts Britpop band-of-the-moment the Delays, has an ethereal falsetto that's uncannily similar to Fraser's. (Thankfully, he doesn't use it all the time.) On the group's recent Faded Seaside Glamour (Rough Trade), his fey voice floats over majestic late-60s pop rock, defanging the jangly, buzzy, mildly psychedelic guitars, which only had maybe half a fang to begin with. It's pretty, but without the novelty of Gilbert's vocals it'd be unremarkable. ANGELA McCLUSKEY 7/22-23, VIC Angela McCluskey has an arresting voice--her singing style combines the honeyed vibrato and liquid, unpredictable phrasing of Billie Holiday and the pleasant huskiness of Marianne Faithfull or Sam Phillips. In the past she's turned up on records by electronic bores like Telepopmusik and Deep Forest, and she briefly fronted the forgettable Wild Colonials. She's much better served by her recent solo debut, The Things We Do (Manhattan), produced by guitarist and songwriter Nathan Larson of Shudder to Think, who had a hand in the lion's share of the tunes. McCluskey navigates the album's arty pop songs and quasi-70s soul ballads with the intuition of a veteran, creating emotional peaks and valleys within each line--and though she clearly has the chops to oversell the material, she almost never does. The Finn Brothers headline; the July 23 show is sold-out. MISS KITTIN 7/22, SOUND-BAR Oh, the plight of the one-hit wonder. French-born DJ and vocalist Miss Kittin (Caroline Herve) must know she'll be dead in the water if she can't do better than the dopey cult smash "Frank Sinatra" ("To be famous is so nice / Suck my dick / Kiss my ass / In limousines we have sex / Every night with my famous friends"), by far the best-known track on The First Album, the neo-electro novelty record she made with fellow Frenchman the Hacker (Michel Amato) in 2002. On the new I Com (Astralwerks) she's broadened her palette--not that she could've narrowed it any further--by taking stabs at synth-pop balladry, electro-punk, down-tempo mood pieces, and Kraftwerk-style grooves. The electronics sound contemporary, which is a mercy, but the music is still rooted in a tedious, self-conscious rehash of the naive fixation on artifice that characterized 80s new wave. RED EYED LEGENDS 7/22, EMPTY BOTTLE As a front man--for Circus Lupus, the Monorchid, and Skull Kontrol--Chris Thomson likes to fight his band, his squirrelly yelp and idiosyncratic, out-of-time phrasing creating a delicious tension with the rigid hard-rock structures of the songs. The Red Eyed Legends are the first group he's formed since his recent move to Chicago, and on their debut EP, The High I Feel When I'm Low (GSL), the same holds true--if anything, the band's strong pulse and deep, grinding grooves underline the slipperiness of his delivery. (Somehow he manages to make the lines "I had a dream / I had some schemes / I had some oh la la" sound sexy.) The material I've heard from a forthcoming EP is even more impressive. (In the interest of full disclosure: Reader managing editor Kiki Yablon is the newest member of the lineup.) Federation X headlines.

Monica Kendrick is on vacation.

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