Silkworm 9/6, Empty Bottle In the wake of guitarist-vocalist Joel Phelps’s departure last year, the remaining three members of Seattle’s Silkworm (two of whom also sing) have moved ahead with remarkable spirit and focus. On the group’s fourth full-fledged album, guitarist Andy Cohen’s fecund improvisations (on “Slow Hands,” for instance) push the group into a jazz-trio mode reminiscent of the Minutemen; numbers like “The Lure of Beauty” recall the jagged, disgruntled pop of the Go-Betweens. Jan James 9/7, Gunther Murphy’s Chicago-based set o’ lungs Jan James performs her juke-joint blues rock and ballads mostly in Europe–this is her first local show of the year. Her latest album, Color of the Rose (Provogue), features “Mississippi Man,” a dramatically produced homage to blues legend Robert Johnson that would have made a great AM-radio single 25 years ago. Eleanor McEvoy 9/7, Cubby Bear McEvoy released the biggest-selling album ever in Ireland four years back, but subsequently Geffen couldn’t get her arrested over here. Now Columbia’s taking a shot at it with What’s Following Me?, on which her pop-inflected folk-rock melodies are burdened with pessimistic slogans (“Precious little in your life / is yours by right / and won without a fight”) unlikely to appeal to audiences that can hardly be bothered with their own country’s political processes. Hazeldine 9/10, Schubas; 9/11 LOUNGE AX Slated for inclusion on a future “insurgent country” compilation from Chicago’s Bloodshot label, this female-dominated Albuquerque foursome smolders gracefully on a recent demo. Somber harmonizing and plangent guitars are used to great effect in the group’s clever, well-arranged songs of longing (“I wish that you’d come back to me / Turn off my TV / Hold me close and kiss me low / And fuck me like Batman”). Godplow 9/11, Double Door Minneapolis-based Godplow kicks off its second album, Soft Formal Static (Grass), with “Mesmerized,” a passable melodic Husker Du rip-off, but then descends into a dark abyss of pointless guitar surges and vocal gripes on “songs” that are hard to tell apart. The closing instrumental, “Silver Elastic Stitch,” shows the band’s heart to be closer to dumb heavy 70s prog than its generic alternative-boy image would suggest. They play with Tracy Bonham. Skeleton Key 9/12, Lounge Ax At Metro a couple months ago this noisy New York quartet made waiting for the Cramps seem like waiting for Godot: unimaginative Chili Pepper bass and guitar lines, obnoxious vocals, and cloddish drumming. But thanks to Rick Lee’s ineffective scrap-metal bashing, it may only be a matter of time before Skeleton Key finds its niche–as a dinner-theater version of Stomp.

–Frank Youngwerth

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