VELOCITY GIRL, FUZZY 5/3, METRO With their third album, Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts (Sub Pop), D.C.’s Velocity Girl have blended the forced guitar muscle of their debut, Copacetic, with the sparkling pop emptiness of Simpatico. Though the balance between Sarah Shannon’s fluffy singing and the moderately edgy guitars of Archie Moore and Brian Nelson has finally delivered on the band’s long-threatened post-My Bloody Valentine pop promise, the merger’s too uninspired to care that much about. On their second album, Electric Juices (TAG), Boston’s Fuzzy have streamlined their bubblegum pop by jettisoning the indie-rock clatter that cluttered their unimpressive debut. Though their original material fails to approach the perfection of “Girl Don’t Tell Me”–the Beach Boys classic they energetically cover–and though their music is ultimately disposable, in terms of sunny, wide-eyed hooks they beat out the too-wispy headliners of this early show. NANCY BOY 5/8, DOUBLE DOOR Lispy-voiced avatars of the new romanticism (officially rechristened “Romo” by the fickle British music press), Nancy Boy are fronted by pouty fashion model Donovan Leitch–son of 60s folk rocker Donovan–and also feature Jason Nesmith on guitar, whose father, Mike, played in the Monkees and helped pioneer music videos. The pedigrees of these band members are far more impressive than the music on their eponymous domestic debut, a wan concoction of sub-David Bowie glam rock, gloppy pop bombast, and irritating nods to cosmetics-enhanced new-wave icons like Gary Numan. They sure look great though. BR5-49 5/8-11, WHISKEY RIVER For nearly two years BR5-49 have been the house band at Robert’s Western Wear, a boot-shop-cum-country-bar in Nashville, and the tightness they’ve developed is clear on their terrific debut, Live From Robert’s (just reissued by Arista). The need to fill four-hour sets nightly, working strictly for tips, has led the band to supplement its encyclopedic knowledge of classic honky-tonk, western swing, and rockabilly with swell originals that convey savvy postmod humor–dig “Me ‘n’ Opie (Down by the Duck Pond),” which details a “lost” episode of The Andy Griffith Show marked by “drug abuse and sexual deviance”–within effortless instrumental country flair. If you can’t stomach contemporary country sounds, BR5-49 masterfully look back to the past without getting stuck there. STEVE JAMES 5/9, SCHUBAS On his most recent album, 1994’s accurately titled American Primitive (Antone’s), Austin guitarist Steve James goes beyond rural blues formalism to include hearty originals along with old-timey country classics by Hank Penny and Uncle Dave Macon. At heart an adept revivalist–even his contemporary narratives like “Banker’s Blues” are set within meticulously preserved old blues progressions–James nevertheless gets by with his skillful fingerpicking and quaint exuberance. LUSH, SCHEER, MOJAVE 3 5/9, METRO With their recent Lovelife (4AD/Reprise) Lush continue to pare down their ethereal swirl of guitar textures into a more straightforward attack. Along with a few evocative arrangements, the band’s heightened musical directness is complemented by blunt lyrics, many of which gleefully tell jerks where to get off. Though the feminism in Emma Anderson’s “I’ve Been Here Before” comes off more naive than revelatory (“They’re all over the place, these children dressed up as men / They can’t imagine how a woman can be only a friend”), Anderson and Miki Berenyi seem exhilarated from discovering what sods men can be. Their lyrical bile is couched within plenty of catchy melodies–some breathy, some sprightly–and without poofy guitars their pop craft shows more effectively. An Irish quintet, Scheer spit out glossy, near-metallic aggression on their debut album, Infliction (4AD). Singer Audrey Gallagher plays off the prefabbed glimmer, twirling bits of goth melodrama, pop tunefulness, and that seemingly characteristic Irish female wispiness (a la Sinead O’Connor and Dolores O’Riordan)–and yes, it’s about as unappealing as it sounds. Mojave 3 are a new British combo fronted by Rachel Goswell, who used to lead prominent shoe gazers Slowdive. On their debut album, Ask Me Tomorrow (4AD), they evoke the dreamy, near-catatonic stupor of early Cowboy Junkies with a distended emotional torpor lifted straight from Big Star’s Sister Lovers. If you can keep your eyes open, Mojave 3 deliver a nice gauzy sound world.

–Peter Margasak

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