One of punk’s most cherished ideals is that anyone can play rock ‘n’ roll, but I could show you shoe boxes full of dreary singles that prove not everyone should. Lois Maffeo, on the other hand, makes you want to believe all over again in the utopian promise of rock: she took up guitar in the mid-80s in Olympia, Washington, and within a few years had graduated from writing about bands like Beat Happening and Fugazi in fanzines to sharing stages with them. From 1989 to ’91 she worked with drummer Pat Maley in an acoustic duo called Courtney Love, and from 1992 to ’96 she fronted Lois, a “band” that usually consisted of herself, drummer Heather Dunn, and whatever backing musicians she could round up. Though her sweet, unaffected singing, acoustic guitar, and preoccupation with romantic pratfalls might seem better suited to a coffeehouse than a mosh pit, her two-chord, two-verse tunes and brash, in-your-face lyrics are pure punk. After Lois broke up in 1996 Maffeo stayed in the public eye, singing on records by Bis, Red Stars Theory, and Evil Tambourines, as well as writing for publications such as Out, Salon, Time Out New York, and CMJ New Music Monthly; she and Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty also spent two years working on the just-released The Union Themes (Kill Rock Stars), a cycle of songs about the pleasures and travails of marriage. On the new album Maffeo’s writing combines her familiar simplicity and brevity with a journalistic eye for vivid detail, whether she’s depicting love’s first blush, a battered wife’s web of self-deception, or a widower’s decline. Canty produced and arranged the music, contributing keyboards and guitars as well as drums, and his spare but fully realized settings range from the crisp, tremolo-laden guitar pop of “Con Job” to the Zombies-like atmosphere of “Being Blind.” He’s presently doing diaper duty following the birth of his second child, so on this tour Maffeo will be accompanied by acoustic guitarist Pete Chramiec, who also appears on a few of the album’s tracks, and keyboardist Casey McKee. Sean Na Na opens this early show. Saturday, 7 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. BILL MEYER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tae Won Yu.