WILL OLDHAM 7/16, LOUNGE AX I’ve never understood the personality cult surrounding this New-York-by-way-of-Chicago-by-way-of-Louisville singer-songwriter. On over a dozen records (most of them credited to Palace or variations thereof) he’s created plenty of eerie 3 AM moments whose sparse, bluesy neo-Appalachianisms translate just fine to the angst of the urban urbane. But just because he’s got an extended family of musicians, producers, and visual artists doesn’t make him a hillbilly, and just because he’s poetically inarticulate when fresh-faced fanzine kids grill him on the Meaning of Everything doesn’t make him a prophet. (He may never shake that child-preacher role in Matewan.) I See a Darkness, on his own Palace Records label, is one of Oldham’s finest releases yet, with brittle but aching meditations on the underbelly of friendship, but his latest moniker–Bonnie “Prince” Billy–has got to go. This is his first Chicago performance since February 1997. 81/2 SOUVENIRS 7/16, LIQUID Fresh from a tour with Brian Setzer, armed with a forthcoming album (Twisted Desire, on RCA), this Austin-based melange of swing sophisticates is ready to take on the world–the world that’s been waiting for a stiff, pose-ridden, cocktail-jazz cover of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man,” that is. I can’t wait for the ultra-honky, retro-ironic bebop revival to wipe this shit off the map–again. ROBYN HITCHCOCK 7/17 & 7/18, METRO; 7/18, QUAKER GOES DEAF The title of this psych-pop package tour–which also includes the Flaming Lips (see Critic’s Choice), Sebadoh, and the most self-consciously “experimental” of Sonic Boom’s electronic projects, E.A.R.–is the First International Music Against Brain Degeneration Revue. (I wonder how many of these artists are beneficiaries of this much-needed charity?) For decades now Hitchcock’s been allowing rumors of his artistic infirmity to flourish and then proving them wrong; his 90s pattern of one great album/one shitty one isn’t a foolproof indicator, but 1996’s Moss Elixir was unquestionably one of the great ones, so you know what that means for his forthcoming Jewels for Sophia. Yup: a few great tunes like “Mexican God” set in a festering squelch of things like “The Cheese Alarm” and “Viva! Sea-Tac.” Few other artists traverse such a dramatic gap between their great moments and their sucky ones. When Hitchcock’s good, he combines an eerie, playfully sexy poetic sensibility with wryly passionate English folk-rock elegance, as if the molecules of Roald Dahl and Roy Harper got mixed up in some SF transporter. But when he’s bad, doing his cutesy-poo surrealist shtick, he’s as swat-worthy as a Bart Simpson-headed fly. I’ve seen him transcend weak material live, but I’d much rather hear the good stuff. LOVE DOGS 7/17, FAMOUS DAVE’S This large R & B/jump blues band from Boston goes to ridiculous lengths to distance itself from the swing craze while still riding its crest. (Is that another curse of post-ness, the crippling inability to strike an unselfconscious note?) But I can understand how any musician would love to have audiences who actually dance. There’s some real energy and life in the virtual grooves of Heavy Petting (Tone-Cool), and the band members have all been playing relatively nonglitzy blues and jazz for a while. Unfortunately, lead vocalist E. Duato Scheer makes that guy from the Commitments sound like James Brown, which doesn’t help when you’re trying to put across lines like “It ain’t hot weather / That makes me stick to you.” ELLIOTT 7/20, FIRESIDE BOWL The 11 tracks on this Louisville quartet’s U.S. Songs (Revelation) are nothing you haven’t heard before on that midwest/south emo-indie axis: you know when the tempo changes will hit, when the trilling guitars will reach their rivers-of-Wharton-Tiers peak, when the boyish singer’s voice will crumble into a husky whimper. It’s good, solid genre stuff, but something in the way these guys stick to this peer-approved sound gives me the nagging feeling that a half generation ago they’d have been studying Bon Jovi records. Also on the bill are east-coast emo band Six Going on Seven, so if you’re planning to dump your lover, this might make a perfect last date. –Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Feridoun Sanjar.