SCRAWL 6/24, METRO The early charm of Scrawl came from their fairly inept but extremely exuberant performances, three women from Columbus playing catchy, raw punk rock because it was fun. Over the years they’ve grown beyond the manic, reckless spirit that produced gems like “Green Beer” and “Gutterball,” but their newfound wisdom arrives in the same lucid manner as their early celebrations. Last year’s Velvet Hammer (Simple Machines) captured a meditative band moving at a slower pace, plaintively delivering bittersweet lyrics; “Your Mother Wants to Know,” for example, is a poignant lope about screening dreaded maternal phone calls underpinned by a rather sad lack of communication. They may not be as happy-go-lucky as they used to be, but Scrawl remain entirely true to themselves, which is no small feat. They play with Superchunk and Polvo (both subjects of Critic’s Choices this week). BIOHAZARD 6/24, WORLD I don’t know if it was their uncomfortable collaboration with Onyx on last year’s Judgment Night sound track that inspired Biohazard to infuse their fairly indistinctive metal with rap-inspired vocalizing, but on their recent State of the World Address (Warner Brothers), their patently unnatural delivery vies with their inane lyrics for positively comic effect. Hearing metal lunkheads deliver in a faux-rap twang lines like “Feel the cold steel as I pull the hammer back / Bang! You’re fuckin’ dead ’cause it’s like that” (“How It Is”) is a knee-slapping pleasure I doubt they intended to provide. Their Brooklyn pedigree ain’t enough to give them street cred. They open for throaty malcontents Pantera and Sepultura. STOMPBOX 6/24, EMPTY BOTTLE Today’s metal kids like their music so hard and rigid that it was only a matter of time before some combo came up with a lighter weight, more “accessible” version to placate those with less tolerance. On their debut, Stress (Columbia), Boston’s Stompbox occupy some nether region between Helmet and Pantera, but they’re a lot friendlier. ADRIAN BELEW 6/25, VIC Adrian Belew played with guitarist Robert Fripp in King Crimson, but it’s the name of one of Fripp’s other bands, the League of Crafty Guitarists, that tells the most about the solo direction of the oh-so-clever Belew. Belew’s solo records and those with his old band the Bears, while loaded with technique and strange creative flourishes, have always lacked both soul and cohesion. On his latest offering, Here (Caroline), Belew opted to play every instrument himself with no outside help. The music itself is crisp, immaculate pop embellished with all sorts of baroque touches–some familiar, some otherworldly–but while it displays a reverence for the craftsmanship of the Beatles and XTC, in the end it’s a rather sterile experience. Like Jeff Beck, Belew is a monster musician in search of a band, an ace in need of a hole. Psychodots open. CORAL, FUDGE 6/25, EMPTY BOTTLE Coral is a new band led by former Honor Role vocalist Bob Schick; although what this band does is markedly different from his old band’s jagged postpunk, Schick’s singular pinched, nasal singing remains. Over rolling, dublike bass lines, stuttering rhythms, and coloristic guitar, Schick sculpts idiosyncratic, skewed melodies, leaving behind the frantic chanted drones of his past. His tense merger of tunefulness, texture, and sideways energy works. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Fudge; on its recently released second album, Southside Speedway (Caroline), the Virginia quartet attempts to infuse sugary melodies with a manic energy, but only manages to squash them. Mountain Goats open (see Critic’s Choice). DIXIE DREGS 6/29, PARK WEST It’s certainly more than coincidence that the return of perennial jamming slags Dixie Dregs is happening during the renewed popularity of early 70s-ish neo-hippie free-love rock. Yet though they’re labelmates with H.O.R.D.E. tour mainstays Colonel Bruce Hampton and Freddy Jones Band, the Dixie Dregs stake out the singular turf of an instrumental jazz-rock fusion boogie band. On their new, aptly titled Full Circle (Capricorn), forgotten fusion schlocksters Jerry Goodman (violin) and T Lavitz (keyboards) join the Dregs’ steady guitarist/pyrotechnician, Steve Morse, to produce music destined to serve as background for everything from sports programs to home-rehab shows. Live, it’ll just be five long-haired studio musicians in high tops rockin’ out. Rama, featuring former Dixie Dreg Andy West, open.

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