EL GRAN SILENCIO 7/6, ARAGON On their 1998 album for Ark 21, Libres y locos, the Mexican group El Gran Silencio concocted a sprawling mix of hip-hop, dancehall, hard rock, and Mexican regional styles like cumbia and nortena. It was clear from the outset that they couldn’t claim mastery over any one of these, but the proportions gave it quite a punch. Their playing seems technically improved on the follow-up, Chuntaros radio poder (due for domestic release on EMI-Latin in a few weeks), but this time the variety feels forced. It doesn’t help that the album clocks in at an exhausting 76 minutes, punctuated with irritating fake radio-DJ patter. This gig, with Colombian rising stars Aterciopelados, is El Gran Silencio’s Chicago debut. BALLY SAGOO 7/6, CHROMIUM British producer Bally Sagoo, who made his name blending Bollywood melodies and bhangra with dub, hip-hop, and techno, is now a bona fide superstar with the international Indian community, and success has apparently convinced him that he’s an artist with an “ah.” His recent album, Dub of Asia (ISHQ), is a sheet of world-music wallpaper: ethereal melodies and spaced-out grooves designed for clubs where people sip mixed drinks from long straws. I guess maybe it’s more “sophisticated,” but it’s boring as fuck. Sagoo doesn’t make it into town often, so this rare club gig is a big deal–hopefully he’s still a killer DJ. TRAVIS 7/6, ROSEMONT THEATRE The Invisible Band (Epic) is an apt title for the latest album by the new face of Britpop: front man Fran Healy sings sweet melodies with restrained grace against a lattice of softly strummed guitars and reverb-laden piano chords, but I’ve listened to the album five times and I’ll be damned if I can remember a single individual song. Eminem’s vapid pal Dido headlines. GO-GO’S 7/7, GRANT PARK God Bless the Go-Go’s (Beyond), the first album in 17 years by the LA pop quintet, is way better than it has any right to be. The same sunny guitar pop the band used to peddle has been jacked up with contemporary alt-rock production, but you won’t confuse it with any of the bland pop punk or dated mumble-crunch you hear on Q101. The harmonies that soar, shimmer, and float behind Belinda Carlisle’s exuberant lead vocals are richer and more accomplished than anything the Go-Go’s pulled off in their first lifetime and are but one example of how they’ve wisely coopted the successes of their fellow Angelenas the Bangles. Of course, that may also explain the goopy closer “Daisy Chain.” THOMAS MAPFUMO 7/7, WASHINGTON PARK Dreams and Secrets (Anonym), the latest album from Zimbabwe’s king of chimurenga, Thomas Mapfumo, is a bizarre collaboration with great free jazz trumpeter and AACM member Wadada Leo Smith. Most of the pieces were composed by Smith, who still seems to be riding the vibe of Yo Miles!, the tribute to electric-era Miles Davis he recorded with guitarist Henry Kaiser a few years ago. His sometimes puckered, sometimes piercing lines largely complement Mapfumo’s trademark mixture of bubbling rhythms, circular mbira patterns, and guitar lines that emulate the mbira licks–but the jarring blasts of outright hard-rocking guitar don’t jibe. Here Mapfumo will be playing with his longtime regular band, Blacks Unlimited. SWEARING AT MOTORISTS 7/8, Reckless on Milwaukee; 7/9, SCHUBAS It’ll be hard for this Dayton duo to live down the Guided by Voices comparisons. Drummer Don Thrasher once played on the riser that holds Robert Pollard’s bottomless cooler of Budweisers, and their delightfully hooky songs range from appealingly terse to apparently tossed off: the recent Number Seven Uptown (Secretly Canadian) crams 15 tunes into just 27 minutes. But the band doesn’t ape GBV’s anthemic gestures or lo-fi posturing: front man Dave Doughman sings in a conversational but clear style, and the recording quality is refreshingly unfussy. You’ve probably heard it all before, but Swearing at Motorists might remind you why you liked it. SCANNER 7/9, SMART BAR British producer and electronic-music theorist Robin Rimbaud earned his reputation (as well as his moniker) from a series of recordings that interpolated intercepted cell phone conversations into ominous ambient soundscapes. The work delivered a voyeuristic thrill while raising some interesting questions about how vulnerable our increasing dependence on technology is making us. Like the media-savvy artist he is, Rimbaud knows a shock is only shocking once, and for his latest work, Wave of Light by Wave of Light (Sulphur), he’s moved on, using the name Scannerfunk and redirecting the focus onto his music–which unfortunately is a warmed-over stream of ambient synth melodies and played-out dance beats that falls somewhere between chill-out and nod-off. I AM THE WORLD TRADE CENTER 7/10, Schubas The liner notes to Out of the Loop (Kindercore), the debut album by I Am the World Trade Center, boast that the entire album was “recorded, sequenced, and mixed using a Gateway notebook computer.” I guess if I were IATWTC’s Dan Geller–who wrote the songs, operated the computer, and runs the Kindercore label–I’d try to distract people with that sort of bullshit too. I sure wouldn’t want them to listen closely to the music: Geller’s girlfriend, Amy Dykes, warbling robotically over flat synth melodies and leaden dance beats.
Monica Kendrick is on vacation.