You have to admire Jules Shear’s career of the last 10 or 12 years–his work is rather inconsistent (fine-to-OK work with the Funky Kings, Jules and the Polar Bears, Reckless Sleepers, and solo) but through it all he’s remained committedly tuneful and relatively thoughtful: his insistent search for redemption through songwriting qua songwriting has given him an aura of indomitability. Which is why his near-brilliant, career-making new album, The Third Party, is such a big payoff. The pop arrangements and the fluty Ray Davies-like singing that characterized the undistinguished Reckless Sleepers are all gone; instead, you get 11 songs, Shear’s unadorned voice, the guitar strumming of the Church’s Marty Willson-Piper, and nothing else. The songs tend to be about a chest-thumping romantic limbo (Shear calls it “the first freeze after the fall”); line for line, hook for hook, track for track, they’re his best, which is saying something. Give The Third Party a chance; it could be one of the sleepers of the decade, coming in just under the wire. The show should be magic. Sunday, Orphans, 2462 N. Lincoln; 929-2677.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/V. Lee Hunter.