It’s possible that in future years the debauching of Soul Asylum will become one of rock’s great cautionary tales. In the 1980s the band was a live powerhouse whose winsome, bashy albums certainly deserved wider attention. The Minneapolis foursome agreeably went the major-label route, eventually scored themselves a platinum record (Grave Dancers Union), and became the first of their 80s indie fellows to find themselves on the cover of Rolling Stone. But the follow-up, Let Your Dim Light Shine, while not a flop, has a strong sense of the evanescent about it; the band is now held in contempt in most parts of the alternative and critical community, and has now suffered the indignity of having what was supposed to be a wildly celebratory Chicago appearance–a low-priced shed event with pals like Matthew Sweet, the Jayhawks, and Victoria Williams–moved from the 30,000 capacity New World to the 5,000 capacity Aragon. The new record isn’t terrible–no one ever said the band puts out great albums–but it sure seems that somewhere amid the studio sheen and reverbed power ballads the band lost its soul. Matthew Sweet’s latest album, 100% Fun, is another gorgeous collection of slightly twisted pop songs, marked by one of the surest hands with a hook working in rock right now. But his shows are routinely marred by excessive volume and a mix that overamplifies the star’s chunky rhythm-guitar playing; after seeing more than half a dozen such events over the past few years I really can’t recommend another, particularly combined with the Aragon’s echoey acoustics. Note the early start time. Friday, 6:30 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence; 666-6667 or 559-1212. Matthew Sweet makes a free in-store appearance Thursday, August 24, at 7 PM at Tower Records, 2301 N. Clark.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photos/Karen Mason, Jeff Bender.