GRIFTERS 5/5, EMPTY BOTTLE On The Eureka EP (Shangri-La), a just-released seven-song blast, this Memphis combo jettisons its usual brink-of-destruction suspense games and simply runs through terrific, blues-tinged songs that rock hard and sink mean hooks. What a concept. Rex, who get the Critic’s Choice treatment elsewhere in section three, also perform. DR. LOCO’S ROCKIN’ JALAPENO BAND 5/5, Olympic Theater, 5/6, CORONET This San Francisco troupe skims through infinite styles, sometimes within a single song. On their forthcoming third album Puro Party! (Flying Fish), funk, salsa, rock, swing, conjuntos, blues, zydeco, soukous, and more get jumbled up like pocket change, yet the band never denigrate anything they casually sample. In fact, they seem in command of all their musical conquests. They appear as part of “Del Corazon Mexican Performing Arts Festival.” CAKE, PEAT MOSS 5/6, CUBBY BEAR Sacramento’s Cake are riding high with the unlikely alternative hit “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle,” a sardonic look at myopic music-biz commodification of cultural revolution. Funny thing is, Cake, who receive their local airplay on a station that serves up teen lifestyles like junk food, have become cogs in the machine the song impugns. The band’s modest genre-hopping debut, Motorcade of Generosity (Capricorn), recalls Camper Van Beethoven’s kitchen-sink eclecticism, but controlled by singer/guitarist John McRea’s poetry-slamesque parched sarcasm, Cake’s potential melodic flights or rock-out impulses get smothered in cleverness. Vince di Fiore’s trumpet, which to his credit is fairly well integrated into the easygoing strum-baked structures, further bolsters Cake’s novelty. This band is geared strictly toward folks who think their college degrees make them better than everyone else. Locals Peat Moss have been playing out frequently, resulting in a drum tightness heard both live and on their recent debut, Keepsakes in the Garbage (Buzz/GX1). These flannel-shirted exploiters of lunkheaded heartland earnestness are excruciatingly tasteful and pretty. But does Chicago really need its own Counting Crows? ROUSERS 5/6, FITZGERALD’S Exuberant roots rockers from Madison, Rousers deliver a glossy amalgam of rockabilly, Cajun, and country leavened with traditional pop smarts. Their recently released third album, Rainbows End (Boat), finds them residing on the edge of manic release, held in check by the sophistication of their tunes. I’m sure they’ll lose the politesse live. They open for the Bottle Rockets. MIKE WATT 5/6, METRO Ball-Hog or Tugboat? (Columbia) plainly establishes that former Minutemen and Firehose bassist Mike Watt no longer “jams econo.” While the album admirably breaks the downward stylistic spiral that marked the latter band’s career, it’s so crammed with alternarock stars it sounds more like a tribute to Watt than a solo debut. Hovercraft and Foo Fighters open this show, so with Eddie Vedder (of Hovercraft) and Dave Grohl and Pat Smear (both of Foo Fighters) in the house, Watt will have some genuine guest firepower to draw upon. As long as Hank Rollins, Frank Black, Dave Pirner, and Evan Dando stay clear of town, the live show could deliver the consistency the album lacks. HUM 5/6, EMPTY BOTTLE Hum’s brand-new album You’d Prefer an Astronaut (RCA) finds the Champaign foursome finally honing their bludgeon rock into something vaguely distinctive: pinched but tuneful vocals suspended over a blast of near-metallic riffs and a punishing rhythmic attack led by drummer Bryan St. Pere. While not the most original conceit–it’s basically a slight variation on the Poster Children MO–Hum’s slow-moving dedication to the sound is beginning to pay off. KRISTINA OLSEN 5/7, OLD TOWN SCHOOL A talented singer and multiinstrumentalist whose main ax is guitar, Kristina Olsen is a slick practitioner of new folk, embellishing highly literate folk tunes with urbane melodicism and jazzlike flourishes. ST. JOHNNY 5/10, METRO It’s encouraging that this NYC quartet has attempted to lose the unkempt indie rock flavor of last year’s plodding Speed Is Dreaming, but the antidote–the new Let It Come Down, a so-called “classic rock” album–hardly helps matters. Bill Whitten’s lazy vocals–a cross between Thurston Moore and Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake–betray a significant hook penchant, but the band’s running simultaneously in five or six different directions. They need to hit a wall. KATHY McCARTY 5/10, LOUNGE AX The former Glass Eye vocalist/guitarist returns with her spectacular Daniel Johnston-dominated cover set. In town a few months back McCarty sang with stunning assurance, ranging easily from folkie gentility to hard-rock bluster. She’s pretty darn funny, too. Dishes, a new mostly female quartet who were hawking T-shirts reading “Have you done the Dishes?” at their first gig, open. SONNY LANDRETH, TERRELL 5/11, PARK WEST Slide-guitar master Sonny Landreth has spent time in bands led by Clifton Chenier, Zachary Richard, and John Hiatt, but the solo career he’s pursued for the last few years reveals his southern upbringing in addition to strains of those artists. His latest effort, South of I-10 (Zoo/Praxis), offers a stew of various Louisiana swamp styles highly polished for rock audiences. His thin, pinched vocals are outshined by his prodigious guitar playing, which recalls the work of Ry Cooder and Lowell George. Unfortunately, the whole thing, which plainly mirrors George’s Little Feat, has such a radio-friendly hillbilly-in-a-can sheen that it sounds almost generic. Speaking of sheen, LA’s Terrell–yes, a single-named bluesman!–also spits his rural-tinged blues rock through high-gloss production. Unconcerned with stylistic purity, his debut, Angry Southern Gentleman (Pointblank), traipses through white-boy soul and some country, while the coffeehouse cleverness of his lyrics begs for some editing with a thick El Marko. “Toystore” seeks to emulate Bob Dylan’s nonpareil nonsense period, particularly “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream.” It name checks everyone from Neal Cassady to Cain and Abel to Jack the Ripper to Salvador Dali to Charles Manson, but these and other figures are simply strung together without cohesion or humor. It’s quite a burden to bear, being young and touted. Maybe next time. LAST REAL TEXAS BLUES BAND 5/11, CUBBY BEAR The smart choice for white-boy blues is Doug Sahm’s audaciously named Last Real Texas Blues Band. Sahm’s encyclopedic knowledge of Texas roots music goes well beyond the blues; in the Sir Douglas Quintet, Texas Tornados, and countless other groups he’s traversed just about every style. On its eponymous Antone’s debut, his current project strolls through classics by Lowell Fulson, T-Bone Walker, Clifford Scott, Guitar Slim, and some lesser knowns. Despite the band’s moniker, Sahm doesn’t limit their oeuvre to Texas blues, but sandwiches in New Orleans R & B and Tex-Mex soul. It’s plainly not groundbreaking, but Sahm’s a natural at singing this stuff, and the band evokes a palpable joy playing it.