Even if, like me, you normally have a limited tolerance for rock ‘n’ roll songs delivered with self-conscious artsy theatricality, the sheer force of the collective musical personality of Maestro Subgum and the Whole may win you over anyway. Since 1985 or so, when I really couldn’t stand this group, they’ve undergone a fascinating transformation, and are easily the most improved rock act in Chicago. What’s changed is mostly the writing: they’re now composing and playing songs as opposed to words shouted over uninteresting chord changes. The numbers are really stories about characters of convincing warmth and humanity who are well drawn within the tight restrictions of pop-song structure. The band has several strong vocalists (Jenny Magnus and Kate O’Reilly are particular standouts) who can deliver this richly varied material to best advantage, and the result is a sort of cabaret carnival, a world in miniature full of unexpected charm. This impressive ensemble is still developing and growing, and there’s no telling how far it can go. Tonight, 8:30 PM, Club Lower Links, 954 W. Newport; 248-5238. Wednesday, Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln; 549-5549.