FISH 8/15, Park West Not to be confused with the homophonous hippie band, the former lead singer of Marillion has made a comeback album brimming with the AOR-friendly high prog that you didn’t think anybody made anymore. Fish’s enhanced CD Sunsets on Empire is the real thing, full of deep and dense ruminations on love and war, with obligatory references to “kings, queens, and pawns” to keep it vintage and “roadside gangstas” to make it current. Most embarrassing is “What Colour Is God?,” wherein Fish gets both preachy and phunky–in a Fil Collins sort of way.

OBLIVIANS 8/15, Empty Bottle On their fifth album, the new expositorily titled …Play 9 Songs with Mr. Quintron, this hard-living Memphis trio gives new meaning to the word “drive”–right out of the garage on a road trip through gospel and soul–and leaves most (other) pretenders in the dust. Former Chicagoan Mr. Quintron’s eerie organ fills add steam and cheese just where they’re needed; unfortunately he isn’t touring with the band, but a little bird at Crypt says he might join them later in the fall.

LUCKY DUBE 8/16, METRO The claim on the back of Lucky Dube’s new Taxman (Shanachie) that Dube is “the world’s most popular reggae artist since Bob Marley” rings a little trumped-up to me. But it’s a big world, he’s a big star in his native South Africa, and there’s no reason his beautifully orchestrated reggae pop shouldn’t catch on big everywhere else–even if it does echo Ziggy more than Bob, which is exactly why it probably will. Though while Dube’s problems with the taxman can certainly be appreciated universally, there’s something about a can’t-we-all-get-along world-unity anthem called “Guns & Roses” that gets lost in the translation.

MINUS 5 8/16, LOUNGE AX Young Fresh Fellow Scott McCaughey thinks anybody who’s in less than two bands is just lazy, and the Minus 5 is his way of making sure that all his friends can alleviate any lingering work-ethic guilt–seems like everybody who’s anybody, from Jeff Tweedy to Lee Ranaldo to Mary Lou Lord, has taken a turn on the Minus 5 carousel. The fine new The Lonesome Death of Buck McCoy–a good job of the kind of lovely, bitter indie pop that’s done so badly so often these days–was written by McCaughey and Peter Buck (McCaughey tours with R.E.M. in his spare time), but this touring lineup features Ken Stringfellow of the Posies, Jason Finn giving that Presidents of the United States of America gag a rest, and Jim Talstra of the Maroons.

SNOTHEAD 8/16, Cue Club There’s no way to describe the sort of rock ‘n’ roll on Snothead’s Each It and I without a lot of hyphens, as in “old-new-wave-grunge-prog.” You don’t believe me? How else would you explain an opening track that sounds like a cross between Fields of the Nephilim and Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, or “Blip,” which is kind of the untrodden ground between the Cars and, oh, I don’t know, the Plasmatics without Wendy. Snothead’s big on causes, too, and its mission statement is nearly as dadaist as its music: “Each It and I protests FCC and Wal-Mart censorship, animal rights, the right to die, and other government policies.” The band donates ten percent of the profits from its CD to PETA–but no word about the poor doggie who’s caught pulling a Divine on the cover.

JACOB FRED JAZZ ODYSSEY 8/17 DOUBLE DOOR There’s a lot to dislike about the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s look-I’m-phonky honky honking–just because you got chops don’t mean you got taste. The title of the septet’s album, Live in Tokyo, is more irritating than cute: It was recorded nowhere near Tokyo (and that sounds suspiciously like the crowd noise from Cheap Trick’s Live at Budokan), and its Godzilla-with-an-Afro cover art is racist twice over. Well, when yuppies “discovered” cigars, you knew bad jazz wasn’t far behind. Feh.

D-SETTLEMENT 8/20, Chopin Theatre This big free-floating funk ensemble (including members of Jellyeye, Uptighty and the New Horizons Ensemble) can always fire up a good high-intensity groove, but whether it really achieves liftoff depends on its front man, poet Marvin Tate. His poetry is rhythmically and imagistically inspired–check out his book Schoolyard of Broken Dreams (Tia Chucha Press) or the new D-Settlement cassette, Partly Cloudy–but whether his performance is on the money depends on whether or not his ego got the separate plane ticket it asked for. On a good night, though, he’s the James Brown of performance poetry. –Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Scott McCaughey photo by Marty Perez.