THE COUNTDOWN 12/27, EMPTY BOTTLE It’s always good to see musicians refuse to give up in a huff when their band falls apart. After all, maybe the second time’s the charm. Or the ninth. This duo rose from the ashes of Entertainment and Starball, two local groups that never quite got off the ground commercially or artistically. Stiff Starr and Roxy Starr, as Steven Denekas and Tamar Berk have dubbed themselves, have a definite taste for the dread electroclash, playing abrasive neo-new wave, at once sweaty and mechanical, trashy and precise. The Frogs headline. BRIAN LOVELY 12/27, MARTYRS’ This longtime man behind the curtain has opened for Adrian Belew, played on Pokemon sound tracks, and worked on sessions for Blessid Union of Souls, Eddie Money, and Cal Collins. On Superimpose (Beat Parlor), his first solo album in seven years, the guitarist clings to the familiar as though he’s had enough of the unfocused diversity his journeyman career has entailed. He sings like Elvis Costello without the bite, plays like Robyn Hitchcock without the weird, and writes songs like XTC without the complexity. Still, when his “Blue, Blue Sky” cops a lick from Big Star’s “Jesus Christ,” I find myself responding as if it were the real thing. LUCKY BOYS CONFUSION 12/27 & 28, METRO Last December these suburban pop-punk phenoms held their first set of “Songs From a Scene” shows to spotlight local talent. It’s not entirely altruistic (guess who headlines), but maybe LBC’s rising tide will lift a few deserving boats. In January the band heads back into the studio to record their second Elektra album, now slated for summer release. The first show features Knockout, Amazing Transparent Man, and Drawing a Blank; the second brings us 15 Minutes Late, Fertility, and 504 Plan. Both shows are sold out. ANDRE WILLIAMS & THE SADIES 12/27, BEAT KITCHEN The relationship between R & B and country music is often glossed over or just plain ignored, which is preposterous–it wasn’t just a one-night stand that conceived rock ‘n’ roll. So some folks were surprised at first to hear a few years ago that unruly Canadian alt-country terrors the Sadies had signed on to back raunchy rhythm-and-bluesman Andre Williams. But the result of their first meeting, 1999’s Red Dirt (Bloodshot), made the mix sound natural, with spry fiddles sliding beneath Williams’s gruff insinuations. I’d like to place a special request for the slinky and sly “Weapon of Mass Destruction.” (Hint: it’s not about Saddam Hussein’s booty.) MACABRE 12/29, METRO The 26 tracks on this local band’s new album, Dahmer, rip into you like 26 rusty chain saws. Since JD had several local victims, the title might hit a little too close to home for some. But while serial-killer-metal does spew bucketloads of misanthropy and general nastiness, your average culture vulture doesn’t give it nearly enough credit for imagination: “Jeffrey Dahmer and the Chocolate Factory” is a song title of the year contender for me. Fleshgrind, Psycho Scapegoat, and Contraption 7 round out the bill for this all-ages show–just the thing for when your family has really, really started to get on your nerves. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS 12/30 & 31, SCHUBAS It’s been a good year for the Truckers: word of mouth and grassroots sales got them signed to a major, Universal subsidiary Lost Highway, which rereleased their masterpiece Southern Rock Opera. That they’re ringing in the New Year here, and not at home in Athens, Georgia, says something about the reception they get whenever they’re in town–Chicago must be full of people who’ve been waiting for a mighty band to restore the honor of southern rock, that least ironic of subgenres. One caveat: each time I see the Truckers I’m more convinced that they’re a long-haul band–they need about a half hour to warm up. But once they’re rolling, they’re one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll machines I’ve seen in a decade.

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