Sugarplastic 9/13, Empty Bottle This LA trio nicely captures the quirky flavor of early-80s new-wave Britpop; on its debut, Bang, the Earth Is Round (DGC), it sounds startlingly like XTC. But XTC was notable not so much for quirkiness as for cracking good songs put over with conviction. That’s why, say, Elastica succeeds at the new new wave game, while the Sugarplastic is just sorta neat. Mount Pilot 9/14, chArleston; 9/17, Lounge Ax Though its six-song tape is an affable survey of folk and country styles from the western swing of “I’m Gone” to the Byrds-ish “Boulevard,” this local foursome’s wobbly playing and half-baked arrangements demonstrate that it needs time to find its own sound. Neurotic Outsiders 9/14, Double Door If you liked earlier mediocre solo offerings from Sex Pistol Steve Jones or Guns n’ Roses’ Duff McKagan, or that wretched Duran Duran covers album from last year, you won’t want to miss this not quite supergroup, formed for Monday night jams at LA’s Viper Room. While its new Maverick album rocks a bit, it mostly reminds you that none of these guys could have made it on his own. Smooth 9/14, New Regal Theater Hip-hop artist Smooth is riding the R & B charts with a remake of Al Green’s 1972 soul classic “Love and Happiness.” Sidestepping the original’s gospel fervor and bluesy spontaneity, she gives Green’s lyrics a perfunctory reading, with routine rap embellishment, over an unchanging bass line and drum track. While Green probably doesn’t mind collecting the royalties, this kind of assembly-line “hit” amounts to the crass debasement of a small cultural treasure. Those Bastard Souls, Lonesome Organist 9/14, Lounge Ax On Those Bastard Souls’ Twentieth Century Chemical (Darla), Dave Shouse of the Grifters conjures up mod psychedelia over a chugging Memphis backbeat. The touring lineup includes members of the Flaming Lips and more than a few Chicagoans (from Trenchmouth and Great Danes). Opening is the Lonesome Organist (5ive Style keyboardist Jeremy Jacobson) who kicks up an impressive ruckus all by himself, simultaneously singing and playing keyboards, guitar, harmonica, and drums. The eerie, carnivalesque mood pieces on his Thrill Jockey EP suggest a revved-up Residents; live, he’s all Jon Spencer could ever hope to become. Mount Shasta 9/15, Lounge Ax An action-adventure motif emerges amidst the hyperanimated pandemonium of Shakuhachi Surprise (Skin Graft), a new collaboration between Chicago’s Mount Shasta and Tokyo’s Space Streakings. It culminates in “Nande,” a variation on the Mission: Impossible theme (with an “Iron Man” riff thrown in) that’s lots more fun than the recent sound track version by U2’s Clayton and Mullen. Girls Against Boys 9/16 & 17, Aragon Ballroom; 9/17, Tower Records Having recently completed a three-album stint on Chicago’s Touch and Go label, this D.C. quartet is an anomaly on the American indie scene. The dark, slinky, aerodynamic dance grooves these buffed boys pump out are so damn catchy they could be a Depeche Mode for the 90s; their impending move to Geffen ought to seal their fate. The Aragon shows with Rage Against the Machine are sold out; the in-store is at Tower’s Clark Street location.

–Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Mount Shasta photo by Annie Feldmeier.