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Spot Check 

BR. DANIELSON 7/30, EMPTY BOTTLE "Brother Danielson" is Daniel Smith, leader of offbeat Christian indie rockers the Danielson Famile, and his new Brother Is to Son (Secretly Canadian) has a lot in common with the Famile's output: he continues to favor his squawky falsetto, and his earnest, gracefully demented pop sounds like it's struggling to go in three different melodic directions at once. But Smith's stuff seems downright minimalist next to the cacophonous frenzy of the full band, which is often seven strong and sounds more like fourteen. Smith's father is a gospel songwriter and home remodeler, and lately Smith has been working as a contractor himself--which, to a Christian artist, is apparently an irresistible source of symbolism (see "Hammers Sitting Still"). After spending the evening in his company, you'll never think about carpentry the same way again. Baby Teeth (see Critic's Choice) open. THE COURT & SPARK 7/30, GUNTHER MURPHY'S Witch Season (Absolutely Kosher) is this Bay Area band's third full-length, and I still haven't made up my mind whether their art-gallery, record-collector approach to alt-country is a great idea or a terrible one--their careful pacing and finicky songwriting make Calexico sound raw. The music is sweetly moody and melodic, but it seems so many times removed from actual country that I can't enjoy it as much more than background--like Poco and the Eagles, it's a guilty pleasure, like letting yourself get misty-eyed about the west while looking out the window of your LA ranch home. JG EVEREST 7/30, SUBTERRANEAN This Minneapolis multi-instrumentalist has just released his debut, Hush Money (Firetrunk), a painstakingly lush collection of songs layered with guitar and keyboard loops, sweeping synth and effects-pedal washes, and pretty, breathy faux-naive vocals. I don't pick up any urgency here--there's nothing revolutionary happening, no sense that Everest absolutely had to make this music--but the sound of the album is so enthralling that I don't much care. Supposedly he can approximate it onstage too, though I don't know how he'll cover for the guest drummers on the CD. Pedal Steel Transmission headlines; the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir plays second. PAL 8/1, BOTTOM LOUNGE This local band has recently put out a three-song seven-inch, Audio Peace Treaty (Carte

Co), and released a live CD-R recorded from the board, very murkily, at a venue in Elmhurst. Their driving, drony, mostly instrumental art punk has potential--despite the terrible sound quality on the CD-R, they manage to build some real tension--but more interesting is bandleader Seth Emily's "label," Free Music, which tries to live up to its name by giving away demo recordings of local artists. There's nothing particularly subversive about using free CDs to drum up interest in your band, of course, but it's refreshing to see somebody using free CDs to drum up interest in other people's bands--and not charging a dime for the favor. GRIMBLE GRUMBLE 8/3, SCHUBAS This long-running Chicago psych band, currently a quartet, has declared itself dead or dying more than once. But lo and behold, this is a release party for their first full-length in six years, Leaves Leader (Pehr), a collection of lush, gently chaotic, and beautifully warped space rock. Bassist Christine Garcia's soothing vocals are swaddled in warm vintage guitar fuzz, and despite the occasional unnerving cosmic eruption, the sprawling songs tend to travel in reassuring orbits, returning to a riff or a line you'd almost forgotten about. French space-fusion band Ueh opens. ATHLETIC AUTOMATON 8/4, FIRESIDE BOWL Guitarist Stephen Mattos (of the late Arab on Radar) and drummer Pat Crump work a jock shtick with their new instrumental duo, trotting out a ridiculous backstory about being the only two applicants for a dodgeball team in Rhode Island and wearing 70s workout clothes and sweatbands onstage. But though the hectic, bludgeoning music on their demo CD, Five Days in Africa, is undoubtedly a test of physical endurance for band and audience alike, I can't imagine what else it has to do with dodgeball. Mattos plays a lap steel so distorted it's almost unrecognizable, and it swerves and buzzes and rattles against the brutal, staggering drum parts like an angry 300-pound bumblebee trapped in a Dumpster. (To help along metaphors like that, they've got songs named "The Bee Roundup" and "The Big Bee Problem.") Neither as discomfiting and confrontational as AoR nor as engaging as higher-brain-function noise bands like Wolf Eyes (I can't believe I just used "higher brain function" and "Wolf Eyes" in the same sentence), Athletic Automaton plays primal, knuckle-dragging stuff--I can imagine them on a bill with Andrew W.K. and the Fuzztones. SKELETON KEY 8/4, BOTTOM LOUNGE Skeleton Key is still working 2002's Obtainium (Ipecac), which is proggy, raucous, and funky, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers might've been if they hadn't gone a-wallowing in Hollywood melodrama and alt-rock soap-opera mush. But the band plans to preview material from a forthcoming album on this tour--and given what an improvement Obtainium is over Skeleton Key's previous effort, 1997's Fantastic Spikes Through Balloon (Capitol), I have high hopes for the new stuff. Rope and Catamount open. rdirty things 8/5, BOTTOM LOUNGE This local quartet's new debut EP, Movement Making Noises (52 Girls), is icy 80s postpunk right down to the cover art--spiky and jittery and wired, with springy guitars and uneasy rhythms, it's rock 'n' roll to get the shakes to. "Cut and Dry" is two minutes and 45 seconds of strung out nervous energy, like a muscle tic that just won't stop. Minneapolis's Faux Jean headlines.

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