SLUSH 3/28, BEAT KITCHEN; 3/29, dome room This southern California quartet attempts to contemporize Smithereens-type FM rock with bluesy garage riffs a la Jon Spencer. While the instrumental drive is there, singer Johnne Peters (brother of Grant Lee Buffalo drummer Joey) sounds like he’s too drunk on his own nerdy charisma to find the groove.

FIONA APPLE, MORCHEEBA 3/29, PARK WEST Barely old enough for college, supersensitive singer-songwriter sensation Apple has already published (in her Sony bio) a thesis on pop composition: “If the music and lyrics are conceived out of honesty and if the production of the song goes along with its original message, then what has been expressed is art regardless of what anyone’s opinion of it is.” OK, Fiona, you’re, like, an artist. The debut Who Can You Trust? (Discovery) by the London trip-hop trio Morcheeba grooves nicely on the synergy between brothers Paul (funky beats) and Ross (bluesy guitar) Godfrey. But Skye Edwards is so wrapped up in her own silky voice that she fails to bring anything real to the mix. Morcheeba also plays later the same night at Dome Room.

FROGS 3/29, EMPTY BOTTLE Along with the calculatedly offensive lyrics (“Everyone’s makin’ a big deal out of the fact / That I raped someone / What’s the crime? / I had fun….After all, she was a nun / And the priest wanted to watch”) you’ve come to expect from this long-lived Milwaukee duo, their upcoming album Starjob (Scratchie) offers enough genuinely funny jabs at the pomp and circumstance of big-time rock to render them worthy, if extra creepy, successors to Spinal Tap.

SQUISHY 3/29, POOP STUDIOS On this local experimental-funk trio’s 12-inch single “Terra 1” (Organico), synth squiggles, dub bass lines, kooky samples, and acoustic and electronic wah-wah all add up to a mishmash that’s too artsy-fartsy to really get down.

WHISKEYTOWN 4/3, SCHUBAS; 4/4, Lounge Ax Appearing on recent and upcoming tribute albums to Tom T. Hall, Big Star, and Richard Hell, this band from Raleigh displays a broader-than-usual range of influences. Front man and guitarist Ryan Adams–who’s still in his early 20s–balances country, pop, and punk sensibilities on the debut full-length Faithless Street (Mood Food) with the aplomb of a veteran, while his group walks the line between ragged and right. Also on the bill are Old 97’s, the Picketts, and Hazeldine. All four bands are currently touring together under the No Depression banner.

–Frank Youngwerth

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