Years of hard work and harder gigging have made Scruffy the Cat one of Boston’s best bands. But they remain one of its best-kept secrets. Maybe it’s because their clever, unpretentious songcraft isn’t scruffy enough for membership in Boston’s garage-revival fringe (the DMZ/Lyres school) and isn’t catty enough for membership in its experimental art fringe (the Mission of Burma/Throwing Muses school). But don’t even bother to try to find them a pigeonhole. For an accessible pop group whose songs might not even annoy your parents, the band throws in an impressive array of eccentric touches, both musical (banjo licks, harmonica fills, the frog in Charlie Chesterman’s throat) and lyrical (subtle deadpan wit). While they’re not professional comedians like their west-coast pals, the Young Fresh Fellows, they have a knack for throwing the right curveball at the right time. Next Christmas, I plan to send Bruce Mellencamp a copy of “Life Is Fun” (“I went back to my hometown / Everyone was dead”) and send T-Bone Costello a copy of “Tiny Days” (“Coffee cups and bottles of gin / baptismal fonts in buckets of sin / I like those lyrics so I just put them in”). Tonight, Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison; 327-1662.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo.Marty Perez.