ELECTRAFIXION, ECHOBELLY 11/17, METRO Perpetual prima donna, English celeb, and former Echo & the Bunnymen crooner Ian McCulloch has reunited with Will Sergeant, his old band’s guitarist, to form Electrafixion, a brazen attempt to cash in on the alternative-rock frenzy with loud, leaden, ponderous muck. One listen to their debut, Burned (Sire), plainly establishes what the average American must already think: “Ian who?” Meanwhile Echobelly’s new album On (550 Music) proffers more of the same terribly pleasant, crisp, and catchy new-wave-ish pop songs that filled their debut. Waiflike Sonya Aurora Madan’s Debbie Harry-cum-Morrissey singing delivers weightless melodies that float over a quietly crunchy guitar attack led by former Curve guitarist Debbie Smith. The band is tight and the songs are filled with hooks, but by the end of the album not a single thing lingers in your empty head. Dandy Warhols round out this early show. BOSS HOG 11/17, METRO While their recent major-label debut is their finest piece of work–which is sort of like proclaiming Chicago warmer than Milwaukee–Boss Hog remain a triumphantly mediocre novelty. As the implied Svengali behind Cristina Martinez, his wife and the band’s leader, Jon Spencer is a pervasive presence; the best parts of the new record mirror the raunchy grooves of his Blues Explosion. But Martinez’s no-account vocals consistently drag down the affair, and it would take every bit of PC restraint in my bones not to invoke the name Linda Eastman McCartney. Demolition Dollrods open this late show. STARFISH 11/17, LOUNGE AX Led by a pair of transplants from Olympia, Washington, and anchored by former Glass Eye drummer Scott Marcus, Starfish bash out frenzied, stripped-down Austin punk rock. On their recent debut, Stellar Sonic Solutions (Trance), they fear no melody, but don’t necessarily know what to do with one. Loosely recalling Austin’s late Happy Family–without its cuteness–the album conveys a bit of retro simplicity, suggesting a time when to rock was enough. MARTINA McBRIDE 11/18, STAR PLAZA With her new album Wild Angels (RCA) Martina McBride remains one of the better female country singers operating from within the Nashville machine. With a looser and rougher edge than last year’s breakthrough The Way That I Am, the new collection allows her conventionally strong vocals a more effective foil–her big-voiced bluster plays nicely against the music’s mild grit. She continues to tell stories of women finally removing themselves from harmful domestic situations (“Phones Are Ringing All Over Town” and “Swingin’ Doors”) but leavens her tales with some fairly uncorny positivity and a good-timey romp through Delbert McClinton’s “Two More Bottles of Wine.” She opens for Little Texas. SAVAGE AURAL HOTBED 11/18, MARTYRS This Minneapolis combo purveys a postmodern adaptation of quasi-tribal percussion, sporting ridiculous black vinyl costumes and banging on big oil drums with the body-flexing synchronicity of Chippendale dancers. On their album Cold Is the Absence of Heat (Ultra Modern) they borrow the tools–sheet metal, belt sanders, electric drills–that groups like Test Dept. and Einsturzende Neubauten first wielded recklessly more than a decade ago. While these groups offered a provocative response to rampant urban and social decay, Savage Aural Hotbed seem more interested in providing a response to Stomp. MR. BUNGLE 11/20, METRO On its recently released second album, Disco Volante (Warner Brothers), this enigmatic Bay Area combo delivers a noisier, more bombastic answer to the frantic channel-surfing mayhem of John Zorn’s Naked City (Zorn produced the group’s debut and bassist Trevor Dunn is a frequent Zorn collaborator). Suggesting a sound track to someone’s attention deficit disorder, this album offers cartoonlike quick-blink shifts between metal, noise, jazz, and hardcore, with many other stops along the way; yet aside from the group’s impressive gear shifting, its sonic patchwork exists without much cohesion or substance. Terrific Japanese weirdos Melt-Banana open. LISA LOEB & NINE STORES 11/20, PARK WEST Leave. Please. MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT 11/22, VIC While I suppose one could praise the way My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult have subverted the usual industrial disco formalism with a kitschy mix of biker, sexploitation, and drug-culture iconography–to say nothing of their sub-Vegas musical glitz–listening to their new album Hit & Run Holiday (Interscope) is just as tedious an experience as listening to any of their records has always been. They could be an entertaining performance troupe if their significance went deeper than the sequins, boas, and tattoos that adorn them. Alterna-rock losers Eve’s Plum and over-the-hill joke-rock knobs Big Stick open. MARILYN MANSON 11/22, METRO Managing to be even more cartoonish than on their schlocky debut, these useless quasi-gothic Floridians and dubious Trent Reznor proteges return in support of their horrible new album Smells Like Children (Nothing/Interscope) to titillate and exploit confused teenagers all over Chicagoland. Marilyn Manson the video game is surely in the works.

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