GUFS 2/17,Double Door By my count a third of the songs on Collide (Red Submarine)–the second album from Milwaukee’s Gufs, a quintet whose music resides somewhere between Toad the Wet Sprocket and REO Speedwagon–contain the word “she” in their first two lines, and several others use it a bit further in. If the band’s dopey singer isn’t referring to some woman in the second person, he’s singing one cliche after another directly to her. Maybe he should try sports or something. SHADES APART 2/17, Fireside Bowl On last year’s Save It (Relevation) this New Jersey trio served up emotion-heavy punk rock redolent of west coast vets Bad Religion. Produced by All’s Bill Stevenson, the guru of hopped-up melodic punk, the record nevertheless found Shades Apart opting for a darker attack, though that hasn’t made them any less predictable. In an effort to display their sense of history they feebly cover “The American in Me” by the ancient Avengers, reaching all the way back to the late 70s. REELTIME 2/17, Irish American Heritage Center On their eponymous debut, Reeltime, an Irish quartet known for their modern bent, take on traditional music and expand it to include slick pop arrangements, jazz a la Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, acoustic-rock balladeering, and eastern European Gypsy romps, among other seemingly incongruous styles. The fiddle playing of Mairin Fahy, the accordion of Elis Egan, the guitar of Chris Kelly, and the keyboards of Benny Hayes all exude impressive technique, treating the ensemble’s broad stylistic amalgam with striking liquidity. Reeltime occasionally sound a bit antiseptic, but usually they accomplish their boundary pushing with verve. RENTALS, MARION 2/18, Metro As the new band of Weezer’s Matt Sharp, the Rentals offer deadpan retro-70s pop, posing as a robotic new-wave, pre-collapse Eastern-bloc band. On its debut, The Return of the Rentals (Maverick/Reprise), the band, which also features Petra Haden of That Dog, spits out catchy melodies over stiff rhythms, wheezing Moog synths, and “heavy guitar,” though I dare you to find that last ingredient. The delivery is (one would hope) intentionally flat, making Weezer sound downright effusive. If there’s anything the world doesn’t need, it’s two-bit irony like this. Marion are the latest pop band to garner weekly coverage in England’s fickle music papers, and chances are in six months some other band will come along and we’ll never hear from Marion again. It wouldn’t be much of a loss. On its recent debut album, This World and Body (London), this Mancunian quintet delivers blaring glam-tinged melodrama with an obvious debt to such middling combos as Suede and Pulp, capped by the overwrought vocals of Jaime Harding, which recall the early caterwauling of U2’s Bono. How tediously British. BADLEES 2/21, Schubas Miffed that you didn’t catch Hootie & the Blowfish back when they were nobodies? Tonight marks the opening gig of a Schubas residency for the next four Wednesdays by the Badlees, a quintet from Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, in support of their recently reissued debut, River Songs (Atlas). Like Hootie the Badlees are an utterly bland bar band with corny roots-rock flourishes. Unlike Hootie the band has an all-white cast, and what’s more, there’s not a song in sight offering simplistic pleas for racial harmony. There is, however, an antipsychiatry song called “I Liked You Better When You Hated Yourself.” MR T EXPERIENCE 2/22, Fireside Bowl Early proponents of popcore, these Berkeley punks have been hammering away at bubblegum hooks for more than a decade now (i.e., pre-Green Day). Their recent Love Is Dead (Lookout) doesn’t alter their formula a bit: more kvetching about girls set to head-wagging melodies and buzz-saw guitars. MAD SKILLZ 2/22, Double Door A runner-up in 1993’s New Music Seminar MC Battle, Mad Skillz delivers lyrical flow with the ability alluded to in his boastful moniker. On this Richmond rapper’s recently released debut, From Where??? (Big Beat/Atlantic), producers like the Beatnuts, Buckwild, Q-Tip, and Large Professor craft spare late-80s hip-hop grooves through which Skillz effortlessly weaves his flashy verbiage. Though there’s nothing particularly new about him, Mad Skillz does have some effective one-liners, such as “I’m a black president cuz niggas ain’t seein’ me.” –Peter Margasak

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