Last December I arrived at an Afghan Whigs show too early and found myself waiting for the opening act, which I expected to be the usual aggressive, distorted guitar rock. Instead out popped Love Jones: five guys in chintzy red polyester suits who burst into a snappy lounge-pop number with note-perfect three-part vocal harmonies. They went on to showcase a series of classically tailored R & B, bossa nova, and lounge jazz tunes, all punctuated with libelously satirical between-song monologues aimed at several local rock icons. Most striking, however, was the reaction from the large contingent of Afghan Whigs fans, who were raucously howling for more as the set ended; in more than two decades of concert attendance I’d never seen an unknown opening act so thoroughly convert someone else’s flock. Love Jones’ debut CD, Here’s to the Losers (Zoo), serves up more of their mellifluous rock ‘n’ soul songcraft, tight harmonies and sighing choruses hanging over it all like a bittersweet haze of Kahlua vapor and cigarette smoke. Lots of ex-punkers are slumming as lounge lizards these days, but Love Jones do it with surpassing skill, passion, and attention to detail. And while they may be doing nothing more than revisiting old musical turf, perhaps their ultimate worth rests not in their musical ingenuity but in their ability to inject a little self-deprecating fun into the overly serious world of alternative rock. If the reaction of those Afghan Whigs fans is any indication, Love Jones has struck a nerve. Friday, 10:30 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 489-3160.

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