BLUE MEANIES, TOSSERS 12/23, METRO Billy Spunke says he had one goal for the Blue Meanies’ seventh album and major-label debut, The Post Wave (MCA), “and that was to actually sing.” That he does; on a few cuts, like the feel-good antiracist chant “All the Same,” he sounds like a cuter, twerpier Jello Biafra. Their newly streamlined ska-punk, polished to a sheen by Phil Nicolo (who did the same for Urge Overkill’s major-label work), is indicative of the way the genre as a whole has gone: what alarmed old folks back in the Reagan era now just makes parents happy that their kids aren’t listening to Eminem. But I foresee a successful run for these guys, especially if they turn up their cartoony politics–because however poppy and agreeable it is, punk always resonates more with a Republican in the White House. Ditto for the local Tossers, whose sound, spirit, and Irish accents recall the Pogues. The political content on their Long Dim Road (Thick) is heavy-handed yet self-aware: “If you’ve always used establishment / We’ve always used ‘piss off’ to change the intonation in this verse,” sings T. Luggins on “Mad Riot.” DIFFUSER, BENDER 12/23, HOUSE OF BLUES Lord knows I don’t want to impugn anybody’s cred here–I’m sure back when the New York quartet Diffuser were called Flu 13 they really did sleep on a lot of floors. But as a wise man once put on a T-shirt, corporate rock still sucks. Twenty years ago today’s slew of sensitive boys in sweatshirts would’ve willingly donned sweatbands and pleather and opened for Journey–they’re competent, maybe even likable, but not for one second remotely exciting. The Milwaukee-based Bender (no relation to the mid-90s Chicago band by that name) rock harder and sludgier on Jehovah’s Hitlist (TVT), which is Recommended if You Like: Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden. Days of the New headline. DANIEL GIVENS 12/23, EMPTY BOTTLE; 12/25, DANNY’S; 12/30, EMPTY BOTTLE DJ Daniel Givens, who moved to New York recently, is back in Chicago to celebrate the release of Age (Aesthetics), a roomy, elegant, abstract yet lucid record that combines some of the best aspects of electronica, free improv, and R & B. Most of the Chicago luminaries who guest on the record will join him for these shows as well: this Saturday at the Bottle he’ll jam with bassist Josh Abrams, vocalist Seth Hitsky, flutist Niki Mitchell, and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm; on Christmas night he’ll spin at Danny’s; and next Saturday his collaborators back at the Bottle will include Mitchell, Lonberg-Holm, Hitsky, Abrams, and guitarist Jeff Parker. JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION 12/28, THE VIC New York’s premier postcollegiate party band kicks off the New Year conflagrations a few days early. The members have spent the last couple years apart–front man Spencer gigging with his wife’s band, Boss Hog, guitarist Judah Bauer exploring less stylized blues rock with his brother in 20 Miles, and drummer Russell Simins assembling a forgettable funk-hop project for Grand Royal–while everyone from Jim Thirlwell to Moby padded their discography with remixes. According to Matador, the band’s label, this show is neither in support of a forthcoming record nor a test run for new material–which means it might just be, gasp, for fun.

–Monica Kendrick

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