LUNG 4/22, LOUNGE AX This New Zealand trio seems to be doing everything in its power to emulate fellow homelanders Bailter Space, who play this club Saturday night (see Critic’s Choice). The band’s earliest recordings as the Clear clearly mimic the awesome roar charted by the Gordons, the ground-breaking trio that eventually morphed into Bailter Space, and Lung’s new album, Three Heads on a Plate (Restless), almost shadows the other band’s transformation: tightly framed blasts of guitar noise stand in contrast to shyly delivered melodies. Bailter Space does it better. JOHNNY GRIFFIN 4/22-4/24, JAZZ SHOWCASE Every year about this time tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin comes home to celebrate his birthday with Jazz Showcase patriarch Joe Segal; this year the revelries peak on Sunday. But leading up to the festivities is plenty of Griffin’s muscular yet soulful music, a sound that virtually defined the fervent hard bop of Chicago in the 50s. A couple of higher-profile recordings made for Antilles in the last few years, especially 1991’s remarkable The Cat, prove that Griffin is operating at an autumnal peak, fire and bravado fused with maturity and patience. DANIELLE BRISEBOIS 4/22, UNCOMMON GROUND CAFE You might remember a young Danielle Brisebois from All in the Family and Archie Bunker’s Place. But now she’s all grown up, and with her debut Arrive All Over You (Epic) set for May release, “little Stephie” is taking her schlock pop on an intimate coffeehouse tour. I suppose she’ll be accompanied only by her acoustic guitar, which means her overwrought vocals–even Natalie Cole’s most extroverted fits sound mild-mannered in comparison (I’m waiting for a duet with Michael Bolton)–could be a bit much. It’s a good thing coffeehouses don’t usually have wine glasses, because they’d be breaking in the throes of her endless crescendo-filled frenzies. OZRIC TENTACLES 4/23, METRO The painfully cyclical nature of pop reveals itself again with this British anomaly. The self-indulgent prog-space rock of Ozric Tentacles may choke most listeners with its marriage of technology (synthesizers, studio effects) and old-fashioned bombast (ponderous guitar solos, flutes). These all-instrumental excursions reach for that bud-induced higher consciousness, but this drugged-out dub will turn any trip into a bad one. This is Ozric Tentacles’ first U.S. tour, and in keeping with the excesses of their music, their live shows promise loads of pyschedelic spectacle courtesy of the band’s visual cadre, Fruit Salad; the press release promises “30 synchronized projectors…strobes, quasars, and goldenscan throughout the venue.” KING’S X, THERAPY? 4/24, PARK WEST King’s X churns out an AOR-ish hard rock that’s thoroughly enmeshed in the mainstream sounds of a decade ago. Slick croons give way to elegant larynx-shredding screams, guitars wail and then get all sensitive, and across this vast emotional landscape the band never bats an eye. Perhaps not as serious but equally hard to take is Britain’s Therapy?, begat in the late 80s as copycat noise rockers. They quickly tidied up their sound for mass consumption, and now aside from a more aggressive slant they’re not so different from King’s X. Their latest album, Troublegum (A&M), finds them befuddled: are they ironic pop rockers or ripping filth merchants? After hearing the chorus of “Hellbelly,” which contains the phrase “Jesus without the suffering,” you might join me in suggesting a third direction for the band: retirement. MELVINS, OBSESSED 4/25, METRO Progenitors of the current sludge-rock craze–a phenomenon firmly ensconced in the teetering heaviness pioneered by Black Sabbath a couple of decades ago–the Melvins remain nonpareil purveyors of the pounding sonic crawl. Their sprawling, guitar-fuzzed music may move at a near-funereal plod, but the result is a sensuous glow and a miraculously catatonic swing. Openers the Obsessed, who grind out a vaguely similar Sabbath-esque sound, actually predate the Melvins; they got their start against the very different musical landscape of early-80s Washington, D.C., amid contemporaries like Minor Threat and S.O.A. (Henry Rollins’s first band). Their career was cut short when singer and guitarist Scott “Wino” Weinrich moved to California to front leaden hippie freaks Saint Vitus; in 1990 he re-formed Obsessed, but only as a studio project until Saint Vitus split up. On the new The Church Within (Columbia), the heaviness is more polished and less weird than that of the Melvins, with a more traditional slow lope and Weinrich actually crooning real melodies. They’re not particularly strong ones, but hey, he’s probably almost deaf.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Chris Cuffaro.