CHISEL, POEM ROCKET 1/26, EMPTY BOTTLE Chisel’s new album, 8 A.M. All Day (Gern Blandsten), finds the spunky Washington, D.C., trio delivering hopped-up pop that looks to the early Jam for inspiration but actually suggests a low-rent, impatient, indie-rock Oasis. Hooks abound, but the annoying earnestness of guitarist Ted Leo’s vocals and the group’s overly spirited bashing–done, I suppose, to convey some sort of urgency–sell the tunes short. Based on their recent debut album, Felix Culpa (PCP), a collection of seemingly every sound the young band’s released, it’s tough to know what New York’s Poem Rocket are all about. With its rough-hewn guitar drones that vaguely recall Bad Moon Rising-era Sonic Youth and late Savage Republic, its purring of pop-inclined vocals, and its hypnotic, repetitive rhythms, the foursome weaves threads of noise into a loose hybrid of tranced-out sonic smack and half-formed pop. Or something like that. r3 LB. THRILL 1/27, LOUNGE AX While calling itself Uncle Green this Atlanta quartet released five albums of unremarkable collegiate pop rock. Their final outing, a 1992 major-label debut, failed to make a commercial impact, so they called it quits. They all wanted to start new bands, but they couldn’t find anyone who would venture into a rehearsal room with them. The situation forced them to reform. Not wanting to be viewed as pathetic progress-impaired dorks, they changed the band name to 3 Lb. Thrill–the weight of the average human brain–and had their old buddy Brendan O’Brien, a guy best known for producing records for Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, secure them a deal on his new Sony Music-distributed label 57. The flaccid result, Vulture, finds Uncle Green, er, I mean 3 Lb. Thrill, playing the same sissy pop, only louder. Supposedly there are sensitive songs about stuff like messed-up relationships, silent victims of profit-minded government regulations, and rape (they’re against it), but the band’s lyric sheet is really hard to read, so I can’t be sure.

GEM 1/27, EMPTY BOTTLE Originally a side project for Cobra Verde guitarist Doug Gillard, Gem have evolved into a full-fledged band. On Hexed (Restless) relatively obscure Cleveland rockers from bands like Prisonshake, Four Coyotes, and Puff Tube join Gillard to produce an impressive low-key debut album of Liverpudlian pop, smears of glam, and rock basics. You won’t hear anything strikingly original, but the band does have a way with solid hooks, and–along with a significant riff quotient–isn’t that the name of the straight-up rock game?

LIKEHELL 1/28, FIRESIDE BOWL Made up of former members of Cows and God Bullies, this group of Minneapolis rock vets just refines what its forebears did. The vocals of Nick Eldorado ride over the band’s stripped-down but still heavy grooves–much like the piercing nasal yammering of the Cows’ Shannon Selberg. Likehell’s debut, Love American Style (Spanish Fly), evokes sounds from not-so-distant days of yore, and subsequently makes a potent case for progress.

RICHARD BUCKNER 1/29, SCHUBAS On last year’s superb Bloomed (Dejadisc) Richard Buckner arrived as a first-rate country-tinged singer-songwriter. Enhancing gorgeous writing with spare instrumentation and a raw, expressive voice–think Dwight Yoakam without the twang–he offers penetrating recollections of lost loves. With striking imagery and arresting turns of melodic phrase, Buckner makes you experience his pain and joy without feeling put upon. At the start of his Chicago debut last year he seemed a bit nervous and clumsy, but by the end he was believing in himself, and there wasn’t much reason to doubt him.

BRAD GOODE 1/31, GREEN MILL Trumpeter Brad Goode continues to be a solid presence on the local scene with his longtime Wednesday gig at the Green Mill. On his recent Sunlight label recording with his current working group, which includes saxophonist Mark Tuttle and trombonist Paul McKee, he creates sturdy if unspectacular mainstream hard bop. Goode’s improvisations are more fluid and crisp, and backed by this sympathetic combo he’s playing with more assurance than ever. –Peter Margasak

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