Even with trends in pop music mutating, becoming obsolete, and being reborn at head-spinning speeds, a killer melody can still transcend. The stylistic flourishes that decorate classic hooks may vary radically, but the tune has always been the thing. In the last few years the Elephant 6 collective–a group of friends who play in the bands Neutral Milk Hotel, Apples in Stereo, and Olivia Tremor Control–has been swaddling its pop smarts in a homemade psychedelia assembled from bits and pieces filched from every genius pop band since the Beatles. But rather than springing for the big production of its predecessors, the Elephant 6 clique records in bedrooms and on shoestring budgets, relying heavily on ingenuity–which it seems to have a lot of. Of the work the three bands have produced, Olivia Tremor Control’s sprawling Music From the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle (Flydaddy) is the most ambitious. Manipulating a four-track recorder to get a sound that’s downright orchestral, this foursome from Athens, Georgia, beefs up its sweet melodies in a variety of trippy ways. Influences abound, but they’re too twisted to be used as simple reference points. While the band’s tendency to embark on ambient excursions occasionally threatens to drag it down, in the end the music is buoyed by the strength (and size) of the hooks. Neutral Milk Hotel headlines. Thursday, May 1, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 773-525-6620. PETER MARGASAK

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