In the post-Nirvana era it’s no longer surprising for a band to be audibly influenced by both 70s FM hard-rock stars like Ted Nugent and Cheap Trick and underground icons like Wire and Beat Happening; what sets Scrawl apart is its reductionist approach. The guitar trio builds its songs around a few carefully rendered details rather than a lot of big flashy gestures; even when guitarist Marcy Mays hits air-guitar-worthy metallic chords, Scrawl is mercifully free of egotistical showboating. Velvet Hammer, the band’s fifth record, is both its hardest rocking and most carefully crafted album; engineer Steve Albini’s raw guitar textures both complement and illustrate the songs’ emotional desolation. Despite the music’s dark edges, in concert the band purges its blues in pursuit of a good time. Mays and bassist Sue Harshe joke with each other and the audience (during one Chicago performance they acted out a one-minute condensation of their favorite parts from the movie Carrie), and when they kick into rave-ups like “Green Beer” they’re simply exhilarating. Opening is Larry Cash Jr., a young Chicago band whose nerdy, noisy groove could be likened to Devo covering Booker T. and the MGs. Friday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

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