Soul Asylum is one of the very best live bands in the history of the world. But their albums suck. The albums don’t suck: they’ve produced a half-dozen or so fabulous tracks: “Spinnin’,” “P-9,” “Cartoon,” “Easy Street,” “Closer to the Stars” . . . . That’s over their last four albums; how many years is this band going to be given to learn on the job? It’s progress: songwriter Dave Pirner’s got a ready wit–“Life’s mysteries seem so faded”–okay, he’s sappy sometimes, but–“I want to live with you in the fifth dimension”–okay, a lot of the time, but what about the title of the new album? Okay: I’ll grant you that Grave Dancers Union is a funny name for an album. And what about “Somebody to Shove”: the “Sweet Child o’ Mine” quote at the beginning, the chords that reach up and slap you around, Pirner’s extremely precise vocal, that droning guitar note in the right channel on the chorus . . . . It’s a fabulous track, but–And Pirner doesn’t pretend to be a lyricist: he’s always put stupid words in for the sake of a rhyme; to him, songwriting is a joke that everyone should be let in on. That’s a pretty old joke, eight years on, and what about those incessant heavy-metal workouts? And what’s “The Sun Maid,” for chrissakes; it sounds like that first psychedelic Spinal Tap hit. I got two words for you: “Runaway Train.” That’s pretty. It is pretty. And don’t forget: I know, I know: Soul Asylum is one of the very best live bands in the history of the world. And? And having redoubtable indie troubadour Evan Dando’s Lemonheads on the bill, along with those little terrorists in Walt Mink make this an ultra-keen, not-to-be-missed show. Tonight, 7:30 PM, the Riviera, 4746 N. Racine; 275-6800.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/B.C. Kagan.