Regret was the main theme of Sarge’s first two albums, 1996’s Charcoal and 1998’s The Glass Intact; the latter found front woman Elizabeth Elmore wishing she’d hooked up with a girl she met at a punk show in Madison (“Fast Girls”) and lamenting in “Stall” that “I’m not the angel that he wishes I could be.” (“I’ve been with lots of boys / And they screwed me up so I learned to lie,” she explains in the same song.) But on the three previously unreleased tracks that led off 2000’s Distant, a surprisingly tight odds-and-sods collection that served as Sarge’s swan song, the singer’s attitude began to shift: “The End of July” closes with Elmore declaring, “I’ve never been good at distance / But I’m getting better.” And so she is–with her new band, the Reputation (whose self-titled debut was released last summer on Initial), Elmore replaces regret with caustic forthrightness. On “Alaskan” she asserts, “Darling, you underestimated me / Don’t worry, I’ve done plenty of practicing / These days I say goodbye more than anything,” while “For the Win” sounds like a particularly nasty lovers’ quarrel: “[I]t’s rim jobs vs. platitudes…/ I’m your favorite piece of ass.” The album adds horns and piano to the nimble roar of the band’s moderately paced pop punk, fleshing out but never drowning out Elmore’s intimate songs. And after a quick succession of temporary drummers last spring, Matt Espy has settled in with Elmore, bassist Joel Root, and guitarist Sean Hulet. Saturday, January 4, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kyle Cassidy.