JULIANA HATFIELD 10/2, double door I’ve had it in for Juliana Hatfield since 1993, when a roommate put “My Sister” on infinite repeat for about a week. Hatfield’s awed squeaking about how cool said sibling was for taking her to an early Del Fuegos gig sounded more like the beginning of the end than any platinum Nirvana record ever did. Still, I have to admit that the former Blake Baby’s long-awaited fourth solo album, Bed (Zoe), with its wise songs about celebrity, narcissism, trendiness, and secret affairs in other time zones, shows a self-awareness (I draw the line at “maturity”) that indicates she’s in it for the long haul. And I love the fact that in spots her guitar playing reminds me of no one more than Mountain’s Leslie West. Cover “Mississippi Queen,” Juliana, and all will be forgiven. Canadian troubadour Hayden opens.
MELT-BANANA 10/2, LOUNGE AX; 10/3, Fireside bowl There’s nothing like Japanese avant rock to separate those who find extreme sound genuinely fascinating from those who secretly pray for it to stop. The two-man, two-woman Osaka quartet Melt-Banana isn’t even that extreme by Japanese underground standards–it’s at least as conventional a rock band as, say, God Is My Co-Pilot, and the lyrics are written in what is technically English. But while the band’s maniacal speed and abrupt shifts may not seem surprising here, vocalist Yasuko O.’s piercing, tortured yelping breaks neatly with just about every American conception of pop expressiveness there is. Contrary to oft-expressed opinion, Melt-Banana doesn’t sound like rock from another planet–it merely demonstrates how big this one really is. This American tour, the band’s first in two years, celebrates the release of “Most Wanted World Wide” (a split single with Killout Trash) and a forthcoming full-length.
ONEIDA, BE/NON 10/4, FIRESIDE BOWL On its 1997 debut, You’re Playing With Children in the Land of Bugs (Turnbuckle), Be/Non, an “apocalyptic noise machine” from Lawrence, Kansas, coughs up another gob of that midwestern macho math-crunch that seems to proliferate whenever there’s too long a gap between Jesus Lizard records–but the violence level here is strictly touch football. I’m far more interested in Oneida, a New York quartet that starts with droney bits of Yo La Tengo and Slint, drags them through downtown smack rock, and punctuates them with gratuitous but amusing just-discovered-John Zorn sax freakouts. It’s just as referential, but it’s a lot more visceral.
POST OFFICE 10/6, SCHUBAS Last year local singer-songwriter Larry O. Dean’s solo LP Throw the Lions to the Christians impressed me with its wit and heart, and those qualities carry over to his band Post Office; in fact both Dean and coleader Stephen Becker are more-than-capable Anglo-jangle-pop craftsmen. But as on Dean’s solo album, the confections aren’t intricate or flawless enough to hold attention on their own. The best moments on the debut Public Displays of Affection (Spade Kitty) are those when the sugar buzz goes sour, like the voice cracks and snarls on “Dearly Beloved.” This show is a benefit for Kids Place, “a nonprofit organization helping to provide a safe after-school environment for inner-city children.” Post Office plays again October 14 at Lounge Ax with Roger Manning. r kate bush tribute with aLUMINUM GROUP, SUSAN VOELZ, and others 10/8, DOUBLE DOOR At her best, British composer, dancer, and diva Kate Bush is a visionary who creates elegant and detailed missives from a better parallel universe; at her worst she’s a thinking man’s Stevie Nicks. The new tribute album I Wanna Be Kate (Brown Star), compiled by Chicago musician Tom Dunning, is a mixed bag, displaying both Bush’s best and worst tendencies–as well as those of the mostly local performers who render them. Without Bush’s cat-disturbing voice and eccentric phrasing, acts like the Moviegoers prove that tunes like “Hounds of Love” can sound as ordinary as any other pop song, and that’s no tribute. The orientalist flourishes of Susan Voelz’s violin and piercing soprano (on “The Sensual World”) are more what you’d expect from a Kate Bush cover, and that’s not an entirely good thing either. The most successful tracks are those by artists who find their own path into a song and then work their way back, turning it inside out in the process: Syd Straw’s strained, urgent acoustic “The Man With the Child in His Eyes,” the J. Davis Trio’s smoky, funky “There Goes a Tenner,” Catherine Smitko’s declamatory “Jig of Life.” At this CD-release party, the Aluminum Group (who cover “L’Amour Looks Something Like You” on the record), Voelz, the Baltimores (“Running Up That Hill”), the J. Davis Trio, My Scarlet Life (“Suspended in Gaffa”), Nora O’Connor (“The Saxophone Song”), Dunning himself, and eight others will perform.
ELVIN BISHOP 10/8, BUDDY GUY’S LEGENDS This Oklahoma-born vet of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band has built an unfortunate reputation as the hippies’ favorite blues-rock shuck-and-jiver. But when he’s inspired, as he seems to be on his latest, The Skin I’m In (Alligator), he can play the slide guitar as if his fingers were on fire. The album puts due emphasis on Bishop’s guitar, which is turned up to 11 in the mix, and stars like Charlie Musselwhite and Joe Louis Walker turn in prodding guest appearances. The title refers to Bishop’s throbbing original “The Skin They’re In,” an earnest if hackneyed attempt to deal with the invisible elephant–racial tension–that hangs out in every blues room on the north side. Extra points to Bishop for spotting it. –Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Melt-Banana.