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Friday 17

ELLEN ALLIEN Growing up in West Berlin, Ellen Allien was obsessed with David Bowie, who recorded his Low-Heroes-Lodger trilogy with Brian Eno in the cold war holdout. She was also influenced by the city itself, a gloomy, paranoid rattrap that inspired Neue Deutsche Welle iconoclasts like Grauzone, Nina Hagen, and Kraftwerk. But it was a trip to London in the late 80s, at the height of the acid-house scene, that provided the jolt the budding DJ and producer needed. Back in a unified Berlin, she began performing and launched her "abstract techno" labels, Braincandy and BPitch Control. She released her first 12-inches in 1994, but her emergent style of expressive, ornate techno didn't take off until around 1999, when BPitch Control kicked into high gear; within a couple of years she was remixing every major techno artist in Europe. Her forthcoming collaboration with fellow German producer Apparat, Orchestra of Bubbles, and last year's Thrills showcase Allien's signature style: richly textured, sensual, idiosyncratic structures that use a diverse array of raw materials--chopped-up Teutonic disco-diva snippets, faux heavy-metal power chords, static interference, and buzzes and rumbles that evoke her hometown. For this DJ gig Allien will spin tracks from Thrills and other BPitch Control releases. M50 opens. 10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-4140 or 312-559-1212, $10 before midnight, $12 after. --J. Niimi

THE CULT In recent years Ian Astbury's kept busy channeling dead front men for latter-day versions of the Doors and the MC5, but the Cult is still a going concern, caught between goth and hard rock as always. (I insist that Fields of the Nephilim did it better, though not nearly as successfully.) This is the band's first tour since 2002; Astbury recently told Billboard that this regathering might produce some new material. 9 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, sold out, 18+. --Monica Kendrick

MIKE DOUGHTY See Saturday. The Hothouse Flowers headline. 2 PM, Mystic Celt, 3443 N. Southport, 773-529-8550. Free

Saturday 18

ARCTIC MONKEYS It's usually a good idea to ignore hyped-up English bands that break sales records, but I have to say that the Arctic Monkeys' debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, is actually pretty decent--maybe not amazingly innovative, but at least distinctive and a lot of fun. These Sheffield lads signed to Domino last June, and they've already made off with some of the limelight previously showered on labelmates Franz Ferdinand and drawn a few gawkers away from the perennially screwed-up Babyshambles. Front man Alex Turner (who does sound a bit like Pete Doherty) reels off dense, unpretentious little tales of Northern working-class pub life that suit the band's restless and exuberant energy. "Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured" matches a bouncy bass-and-guitar hook to a playful sketch about mobs of club hoppers pouncing on taxicabs, and "From the Ritz to the Rubble" begins with a blokey burst of second-person narrative that betrays Turner's fondness for Manchester punk poet John Cooper Clarke. The Spinto Band opens. 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages. --J. Niimi

MIKE DOUGHTY In the time since Soul Coughing split in 2000, Mike Doughty's been busier than you might've thought: he's popped out a couple of modestly successful solo releases, traveled the world, and moonlighted as a comic-book writer and a photographer for Suicide Girls. His latest album, Haughty Melodic, came out last year on Dave Matthews's ATO imprint, which makes sense--Doughty's like Matthews for people who have slightly more discriminating tastes but still really like the moodiness that a fretless bass can bring to a track. His songs are generically eclectic--samples are paired with piano, acoustic guitars with big, "dancey" drums--and as a lyricist he's clever but accessible. He uses a lot of words to explain himself, but half the time he's just expressing his desire to put the bone down. Rachel Ries opens. Doughty also plays a free show on Saint Patrick's Day at Mystic Celt; see Friday. 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, sold out. All ages. --Jessica Hopper

DONALD FAGEN On "What I Do," Donald Fagen claims that Ray Charles's ghost has started advising him, and maybe it's true--throughout his third solo album, Morph the Cat (Reprise), Steely Dan's vocal half sounds more uncomfortably alive than he has since the mass malaise of the 70s dissipated. But more likely his cynicism is toned up by the war on terror, which noses around the edge of each song on the record. I've resigned myself to Fagen's shimmering jazz-funk--he'll likely ride that same damn lite groove to his grave. But at least the undercurrent of tension in his lyrics contextualizes the slickness--the patina of affluent calm is there to mask everyday uncertainties. a 8 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State, 312-443-1130 or 312-902-1500, $42.50-$62.50. --Keith Harris

ILLUSION OF SAFETY Dan Burke has been performing under the name Illusion of Safety for 23 years now, both solo and with collaborators like Jim O'Rourke, Kevin Drumm, and Ben Vida. Over that time he's delved into all kinds of sonic arcana--ominous industrial ambience, proggy beat-driven blowouts, abstract sound art--using conventional and electronic instruments as well as signal processing. His most recent album, 2003's Time Remaining (Ossosnossos), is a collection of electronic pieces that range from violent storms of harsh, flailing white noise to quiet, staticky sound fields--some dotted with decontextualized shards of melody--that ripple gently like sheets in the breeze. He's got a superior feel for dynamics and manipulates the scale and density of his compositions with such precision and nuance that his music never gets tiresome. Here Burke will improvise a score for Dziga Vertov's 1929 silent film The Man With the Movie Camera using a computer, amplified objects, field recordings, and live processing and mixing. 10:30 PM, Hotti Biscotti, 3545 W. Fullerton, 773-772-9970. Free. --Peter Margasak

USURPER I appreciate that this local metal machine likes to leave 'em wanting more--sometimes I wish more bands got that memo. But really, playing your sole hometown gig of the year in March? Granted, the bloom hasn't yet worn off the fetid carrion flower that is last year's wrathtastic Cryptobeast (Earache)--there's a world tour to go on and all that. But guys, I'm screen-capping your announcement about this being the "first and only" Chicago date of '06, and if you wind up getting sweet-talked into a Halloween show or another Holiday of Horrors fest, I will laugh. Rellik and Ravensthorn open. 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $10. --Monica Kendrick

Monday 20

RICHARD BUTLER Of all the people who had thriving punk careers in 1981, Richard Butler is just about the only one I'm glad to see chugging along today. While he never quite went away after the Psychedelic Furs broke up in 1994--resurfacing every few years on reunion tours or with his short-lived band Love Spit Love--his self-titled solo debut (on Koch) displays the seriousness and conviction of someone who intends to stick around for good this time. His voice has hardly aged; in fact, it's only grown more fluid. On songs like "Sentimental Airlines" he's even a touch croony, showing off a tender falsetto. Musically the album is cinematic and lush, making a slow sweep around a post-Radiohead axis of strummy spaciousness. Godspeed to him on his comeback trail. Sierra Swan opens. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $22 in advance, $25 at the door. --Jessica Hopper

Tuesday 21

DANILO PEREZ TRIO Since the late 80s, when he first grabbed attention as the twentysomething pianist in Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra, Danilo Perez has paradoxically blended consistency and creative flux: I've never heard him play a bad (or even mediocre) show, but he continues to seek out new terrain. For much of the past ten years he's focused on adapting the rhythms and melodies of his native Panama to jazz, drawing from the Thelonious Monk songbook for 1996's PanaMonk and contemporary standards for 2003's ...Till Then (Verve). But in 2000 Perez joined the working quartet led by the famously elliptical (and infamously cryptic) saxist Wayne Shorter, and Weird Wayne's influence has apparently worked its mysterious magic once again: on last year's Live at the Jazz Showcase (ArtistShare), Perez's music boasts a quiet, sometimes disquieting depth and density that hadn't been there before. Perez returns to the scene of that recording with the excellent trio he's led throughout this decade, comprising bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz. See also Wednesday and Thursday; the group's run lasts through Sunday, March 26. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20. --Neil Tesser

Wednesday 22

THE MINUS 5 The latest album from Scott McCaughey and his loose amalgamation of merry pranksters is technically untitled, but due to its cover art it's semiofficially known as "The Gun Album." Possibly in an attempt to comply with Chekhov's law, McCaughey's put plenty of guns on the inside too--and he mixes them with so much caffeine and alcohol that you feel someone should keep an eye on him. At times the crisp and infectious Beatles-ish feel of the music seems to provide a misleadingly pleasant entry to a bleak and snarky lyrical world, home to lines like "I had six white Russians tonight, and two of them were people" and entire songs as eloquent and expressive as "Aw Shit Man." But hearing the sad country sway of "Cemetery Row" you suspect McCaughey really might want to make hits--he's just a little too bent. As always, there's a long who's who of players on the disc, featuring assorted Wilcoites and Decemberists plus some dude who apparently used to be in Mott the Hoople. The touring lineup, though less massive, is still formidable: McCaughey, John Ramberg, Bill Rieflin (sometimes of Ministry), and Peter Buck. The Silos and Frisbie open. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $15. --Monica Kendrick

DANILO PEREZ TRIO See Tuesday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20.

Thursday 23

DESTROYER Somebody has to say it: the New Pornographers are overrated. (It's hard to imagine how they couldn't be, considering the amount of hype they labor under.) But Dan Bejar's long-running solo project, Destroyer, is underrated. On his own he doesn't churn out the should-be hits with such machinelike consistency--Your Blues, his previous effort, was a bit of a pratfall--but on his glorious seventh album, Destroyer's Rubies (Merge), Bejar takes his time with a sad, weird, versatile strain of art-pop that grows real toadstools in its imaginary gardens. His proud citation of Kevin Ayers as an influence is not only a shortcut to my heart, it's fitting: after all, aren't Soft Machine a bit overrated, too? Magnolia Electric Co. headlines, Destroyer plays second, and Nedelle opens. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $10 in advance, $12 at the door, 18+. --Monica Kendrick

JAPAN NITE U.S. TOUR 2006 Tokyo's Benten Label, which specializes in female artists, has put together several package tours to showcase its acts in the States; for this pass it teamed up with another label, Denko Secca, and the resulting lineup of Japanese bands comes at you fast, furious, and coed. TsuShiMaMiRe, an all-girl trio, deck their music out in vivid, childlike primary colors--it's aggressive bubblegum riding a fruit-flavored swirl of sound. The young men of the Rodeo Carburettor, on the other hand, bring much testosterone with their fierce take on bitchin'-Camaro rock, and the frankly named Stance Punks resurrect the spirit of John Holmstrom's Ramones cartoons. The bill from top to bottom: TsuShiMaMiRe, the Rodeo Carburettor, the Emeralds, Stance Punks, PE'Z, and Ellegarden. 8:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. --Monica Kendrick

LYING IN STATES These locals are a pretty passionate lot, and they're not shy about showing it--but they've never made me feel played, like they're lazily relying on overwrought shrieks as a sort of emotional equivalent to Pavlov's bell. Their new Wildfire on the Lake (Flameshovel) is more straightforward gut-spill indie rock than its predecessor, Most Every Night, but it's no less effective, working overtime to maintain a twitchy, unsettled feeling, like the fear of getting jumped not when you're walking down a dark alley but while you're sitting in your busy office. These guys aren't about making your nightmares come true--they'd rather hit you with something you never saw coming. The Narrator, the End of the World, and the Reports open. 10 PM, the Mutiny, 2428 N. Western, 773-486-7774. Free. --Monica Kendrick

DANILO PEREZ TRIO See Tuesday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20.

ZOLAR X It takes a city like Los Angeles to make a band like Zolar X. They spent most of the 70s dressing up like modded-out Romulans--not just onstage but all the time. Sometimes they insisted they were from outer space and spoke to one another in a language they'd made up. They plucked and painted their eyebrows, cut their hair into widow's peaks that looked like wigs, and walked around waiting to become internationally famous. Obviously they never made it--they broke up in 1981, and the 2004 retrospective Timeless (Alternative Tentacles), which collects their posthumous album and a mess of unreleased stuff, is the first most people who are not horrible record geeks living in LA have heard of them. The 20-track CD starts to sound a little samey if you try to take in the whole thing at once, but it also makes it clear these guys didn't devote all their energy to their image. Their glam pop has more buzz and punch than you'd expect from a bunch of androgynous aliens, and sometimes comes dangerously close to the punk sound that killed glam off. Zolar X has been playing out again since last June in a trio lineup that includes two members from the band's original run, singer and lead guitarist Ygarr Ygarrist and drummer Eon Flash. Plasma Drive and Plastic Crimewave Sound open. 9:30 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $10. --Miles Raymer

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