BELLINI At a 2002 show in Athens, Georgia, Bellini drummer Damon Che abruptly left the stage in the middle of the band’s set; later that night he loaded his kit in the band’s rented van and drove home to Pittsburgh alone. Former Girls Against Boys drummer Alexis Fleisig filled in on short notice, and, even better, he’s stuck around: the quartet has improved immeasurably on its new album, Small Stones (Temporary Residence Limited). Singer Giovanna Cacciola–who, along with her husband, Bellini guitarist Agostino Tilotta, used to play in Uzeda–uses her smoky voice to fill in the jagged cracks created by Fleisig’s mathy rhythms and Matthew Taylor’s lurching bass lines, creating a sound that’s both sultry and dangerous. Tilotta’s guitar playing is loud and slithery–it recalls Duane Denison’s sharp arpeggios in the Jesus Lizard, but it’s caked with mud and grit. Mono headlines and Headlights open. 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $10. –Peter Margasak
MOISTBOYZ On their fourth album, the imaginatively titled Moistboyz IV (Sanctuary), Dickie Moist and cohort Mickey (aka Dean Ween) play the same old scatological southern trash rock, but this time the poo flinging has a surprisingly political bent. “I Don’t Give a Fuck Where the Eagle Flies,” “Uncle Sam and Me,” and “Captain America” celebrate a monstrous empire tripping all over itself and killing people in the process, like a stinking drunk Godzilla; the aesthetic of these songs is reminiscent of the raunchy sound track from Team America. Still, there are moments where things are more generically lowbrow, on songs like “White Trash,” “Everybody’s Fucked Her,” and the to-the-point rant “Fuck You.” The bit that charms me most is the chorus of “Year of the Maggot,” whose lines (“The full moon arise and the star in the east / The hair of the dog and the mark of the beast”) could’ve come from a Ronnie James Dio lyric generator. The Minibosses open. 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $15. –Monica Kendrick
SUFJAN STEVENS For all his greater musical sophistication, the temptation to compare Sufjan Stevens’s album Illinois (Asthmatic Kitty) to Songs About the Land of Lincoln by locals Illinois First! is pretty much overwhelming: both derived lyrical inspiration from books (Stevens from the writings of Carl Sandburg and others, Illinois First! from the textbook Discovering Illinois); both feature grand histories of entire towns (Stevens does Jacksonville and Illinois First! does Nauvoo); and both dedicate songs to infamous Illinoisans (John Wayne Gacy and George Ryan respectively). Granted, it’s hard to imagine Illinois First! coming within five feet of a glockenspiel, let alone an oboe, but while Stevens has compositional prowess, at least Illinois First! has focus. Illinois really is a beautiful tribute, but you know the Brooklynite is just passing through, writing out some very dense postcards in some very tiny handwriting. Laura Veirs opens; see also Saturday. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, 18+, sold out. –Monica Kendrick
SUFJAN STEVENS See Friday. Liz Janes opens. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, 18+, sold out.
SEXSMITH & KERR Don Kerr and Ron Sexsmith have worked together for nearly two decades–Kerr has contributed drums, cello, and sweet harmony vocals to Sexsmith’s previous records–so fans won’t hear anything too out of the ordinary on their debut album, Destination Unknown (RonBoy Rhymes). In fact, Sexsmith wrote the songs on the album around the same time as the tunes that made up his last record, 2004’s Retriever. The vibe on Destination Unknown is definitely more stripped-down: Sexsmith strays from singer-songwriter mode less often here, and his vocals with Kerr hint at the indelible close-harmony style of the Louvins and the Everlys. Sexsmith’s songwriting is typically terrific–gorgeous, easygoing melodies set against romantic ruminations imbued with melancholy nostalgia, retrained bitterness, and guarded optimism. But the purer setting makes the songs shine even more brightly than usual. Ana Egge opens. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15. –Peter Margasak
VIBRATORS Formed in 1976, creaky old UK punks the Vibrators are still touring and recording, despite routine personnel changes and with little regard for their dignity. But then punk was never about dignity. The current lineup, a trio featuring founding vocalist-guitarist Ian “Knox” Carnochan and one-name drummer Eddie, is captured on the DVD Live Energized CBGB 2004, a two-hour collection of performances and interviews recorded at the likely doomed New York institution. Their forthcoming release, set for early 2006, will be an album of punk covers, including a version of the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” with Lemmy Kilmister on vocals. The Peelers and the Paper Bullets open. a 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 866-468-3401, $10 in advance, $12 at the door, 18+. –Monica Kendrick
ROYKSOPP Torbjorn Brundtland and Svein Berge, childhood friends who’ve worked together off and on since the early 90s, have just released The Understanding (Astralwerks), the follow-up to their 2001 debut as Royksopp, Melody A.M. Without abandoning the cinematic ambience of earlier recordings, the Norwegian electronica duo has expanded its sound to include lush pop arrangements and downcast love songs, with vocal cameos taking a front-and-center role; Karin Dreijer (of the Swedish band the Knife) in particular stands out on “What Else Is There?,” the album’s most seductive, beautiful track. Annie opens. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $19, 18+. –Monica Kendrick
BECK Ever since 1998’s Mutations, a mature album or a quick diversion depending on who’s talking, Beck has been expected to bounce back by making another Mellow Gold or Odelay–a party record with absurd, inept raps and room-shaking production. Midnite Vultures, his full-band 70s soul homage, came close, but that was followed by the confessional, non-sample-based Sea Change. The new Guero (Interscope) isn’t the magic return to form either; it’s more like the album where Beck tries to drop the comic shtick but not the fun. Like most of Beck’s discography to date, it’s both impressive and inconsistent. There are some real stinkers: “E-Pro” is a clunky reworking of “Devil’s Haircut,” and “Hell Yes” ought to end the propagation of inept white rapping for all eternity. But “Que Onda Guero,” with its lowrider groove, paints a vivid portrait of LA’s Latino street life, and the terse, stuttering “Black Tambourine” effectively expresses a bleak romanticism. The Brazilian-tinged and darkly beautiful “Missing” proves that Beck can write a serious ballad without sounding like a sad sack, and on “Earthquake Weather” he does the Isleys more convincingly than on the admittedly enjoyable minstrel routine “Debra.” McRorie opens. See also Wednesday. a 6:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages. –Peter Margasak
PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES For much of the past year this Seattle post-hardcore band, which made its reputation on the road, has been holding on the other line while its side projects–Dutch Dub, Bullion Brothers, A Gun Called Tension, Ghost Wars–recorded and toured. Given that Pretty Girls Make Graves began as a side project for members of the Murder City Devils, the Rapture, and Kill Sadie, this isn’t exactly a surprising pathology. And guitarist (and new father) Nathan Thelen left the band in March, to be replaced by keyboardist Leona Marrs of Hint Hint, so a little lapse in momentum might even be expected. All the same, the rerecording of PGMG’s forthcoming third album and its repeatedly delayed release date (it was supposed to be out this spring) were enough to convince the gossip hounds that something was amiss–that the band was about to break up, for instance, or that it had been dropped by Matador. Fortunately, the next record is finally in the can, scheduled for a spring 2006 release, and PGMG is back in the van. Franz Ferdinand headlines and Cut Copy opens. a 7 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 312-666-6667 or 312-559-1212, $27.50. All ages. –Jessica Hopper
ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE & THE COSMIC INFERNO See Thursday. The Occasion opens. 10 PM, Hutchinson Courtyard, Reynolds Club, University of Chicago, 5706 S. University, 312-315-9035. Free. All ages.
BECK See Tuesday. Whirlwind Heat opens. 6:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages.
I CAN LICK ANY SONOFABITCH IN THE HOUSE I detect a bit of overcompensation in the name of this band–the Portland scene usually isn’t associated with bluesy, macho Skynyrdisms. (But then John “Born on the Bayou” Fogerty was actually born in Berkeley, so I suppose they’re working in a grand tradition.) The striking thing about their latest album, 2004’s Menace (In Music We Trust), is the lyric sheet: “Pauline” is a heartfelt song about grandma, Jesus, and death; “Rachel Corrie” is a moving anthem about the late Middle East peace activist; “Regrets and Greyhounds” is about exactly that (the buses, not the dogs); and “Westboro Baptist Church” excoriates the execrable Reverend Fred Phelps (“If God hates fags, you asshole, I’m sure he hates you more”). Big Big Shoulders and Tijuana Hercules open. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $6 in advance, $8 at the door. –Monica Kendrick
XBXRX When they got together as teenagers in the late 90s, XBXRX seemed devoted to the idea that a truly insane amount of adolescent adrenaline was really all you needed to make great…well, should I call it rock ‘n’ roll? I think I will. While that doesn’t work for just anyone, it sure worked for them, even if their sped-up-beyond-comprehension hardcore frenzy made a lot more sense in a live setting than it ever did on record. Their brand-new Sixth in Sixes (Polyvinyl) changes the formula, though: produced by current drummer Weasel Walter, who’s great at translating this kind of energy to disc, it clearly demonstrates the pop chops that must have always been there, waiting to be carved out of the marble block of raw power. Bobby Conn & the Glass Gypsies and Make Believe open. 6 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 866-468-3401, $10 in advance, $12 at the door. All ages. –Monica Kendrick
HARRIS EISENSTADT’S THE SOUL AND GONE, ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE & THE COSMIC INFERNO Last May LA-based drummer Harris Eisenstadt came to Chicago to play with three different lineups of musicians from our strong new-jazz scene. While this kind of ad hoc collaboration is par for the course in improvised music, apparently these one-off engagements left him wanting more. Five months later he returned to record an album with a cross section of the same people–vibist Jason Adasiewicz, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and bassist Jason Roebke–as well as guitarist Jeff Parker and LA reedist Jason Mears. But instead of just leading the group in a free-for-all blowing session, Eisenstadt brought along a variety of complex compositions filled with contrapuntal devices, dense harmonies, and crosscutting lines. On the sextet’s forthcoming debut on the 482 Music label, they come together with remarkable precision, delivering wildly energetic performances with unexpected harmonic detail. For this show Eisenstadt will be joined by Parker, Bishop, Adasiewicz, bassist Jason Ajemian, and LA bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck. –Peter Margasak
Makoto Kawabata dissolved the long-running Japanese psych-rock collective Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso UFO last year, but fans knew a celestial force like that couldn’t just dissipate. Sure enough, Kawabata is back with Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno, which could be said to be a “supergroup”–the new members have played with Zeni Geva, the Boredoms, High Rise, White Heaven, Ghost, and others. But then every band in the waning years of the original psychedelic era was a “supergroup”: European cosmonaut outfits like Gong, Soft Machine, Nektar, Guru Guru, and Caravan traded members like partners at a hippie mud orgy. On their debut, IAO Chant From the Cosmic Inferno (Ace Fu), they make no concessions to conventional song structure–not even dividing their divergent deep-space wanderings and futurist-tribal invocations into separate tracks–but you won’t care. –Monica Kendrick
This show is part of the Adventures in Modern Music Festival; see page 54 for a complete schedule. Acid Mothers Temple headlines, Eats Tapes plays third, Akron/Family plays second, and Harris Eisenstadt’s The Soul and Gone opens. Acid Mothers Temple also plays at the Reynolds Club at the University of Chicago; see Wednesday. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15.
IDLEWILD The members of the Edinburgh band Idlewild cut their teeth on grunge, coming together in 1995 and playing their first shows while barely out of their teens. But on their latest album, Warnings/Promises (EMI), they attempt to establish some credibility as mature songwriters by distancing themselves from what one member calls their “teenage punk rock” years. Too bad. As a postgrunge act, Idlewild was charming and inventive: the 2000 album 100 Broken Windows rivals the best work of the band’s former labelmates Blur and makes Bush and Travis look like the wannabes they were. But as a post-Britpop act, they’re garden-variety, ditching their last remaining fuzz pedals (except for the Cobain-esque pandemonium on “I Want a Warning”) and sounding even more like Coldplay than they did on 2002’s The Remote Part. Their more sedate tenor, as on the acoustic-guitar-laden “As if I Hadn’t Slept” and the symphonic “Not Just Sometimes but Always,” makes the long-winded romantic objurgations of singer Roddy Woomble (say it out loud, it’s fun) sound tedious where they used to sound youthfully obsessive. Inara George opens. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $16, 18+. –J. Niimi
NUMBERS San Francisco’s Numbers have spent half a decade specializing in post-no-wave dementia, releasing albums that are all high-velocity herky-jerky beats, chicken-scratch guitar, and sputtering, out-of-whack synths. I can’t blame them for wanting to change their sound, but on their new record, We’re Animals (Kill Rock Stars), they seem to think maturity requires acting like a bunch of geezers. They’ve cut their hyperactive tempos in half, and while there are still some noisy keyboard wheezes and slashing guitars, their inept attempts at writing actual melodies reveal Indra Dunis’s inability to carry a tune. You know things are bad when your best songs sound like bad Slits covers. This show is part of Estrojam; see page 22 for a complete schedule. King Cobra and Limited Express (Has Gone?) open. 10 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 866-468-3401, $10, 18+. –Peter Margasak