TWILIGHT SINGERS Powder Burns is a comeback of sorts for Twilight Singers front man Greg Dulli. After kicking a persistent and rather flamboyant drug habit, Dulli says he spent a couple years “tending to my humility,” playing as a sideman for Mark Lanegan and the Italian band Afterhours (who open on this tour). He then wound up finishing his band’s newest record under primitive conditions in post-Katrina New Orleans, his adopted hometown, which he says was like “going to visit a friend in the hospital.” I was never a huge fan of Dulli’s former band, the Afghan Whigs, and Powder Burns still carries grunge’s worst indulgence–which has been passed on to emo, its cleaner and more prudish spiritual heir–namely the assumption that every anatomical detail of the Great Man’s wrenching angst will have millions on the edge of their seats. But beneath his facile mastery of the fist-pump crescendo, Dulli is surprisingly multidimensional, sounding almost hopeful and willing to have a little fun. Besides, if Ani DiFranco thinks he’s deep enough to collaborate with, who am I to argue? Afterhours and Jeff Kline open. 11:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $17, 18+. –Monica Kendrick

VIOLINS Clyde Federal hadn’t gone anywhere near as far as it could’ve when the group disbanded a few months ago, but front man Mike Lyons is carrying the buzz over to his new project, Violins. Stylistically it’s very much the same: four-on-the-floor pop rock that hangs on solid hooks and rhythmic wordplay, which keeps the songs on course even when the music sleeps at the wheel. Some people have suggested Lyons’s literacy is an Anglophile trait, but I like to think of him as a Chicagophile, reminding the world that we have dictionaries too and we’re not afraid to use them. This is a release party for Violins’ debut, Pink Water, on local label Contraphonic. Nothing Painted Blue and Graham Smith open. 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. –Monica Kendrick

DAR WILLIAMS Dar Williams is possibly the best songwriter among the big names currently on the below-the-radar modern folk circuit, and she ought to know it–her fan base won’t stop telling her so. But she made a gutsy move on last fall’s My Better Self (Razor & Tie), stopping the album dead in its tracks to do loving versions of Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” and Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” (featuring Ani DiFranco). The latter in particular raises such serious goose bumps you don’t even care how much it outclasses her original material. 7:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, sold out. –Monica Kendrick

JOSH WINK To anyone wondering what the point of going to raves was, I recommend Josh Wink’s “Higher State of Consciousness.” The song’s first few minutes aren’t much more than a house beat and a 303 squawking out a tweaky synth-bass line, but then it all goes supernova–the beat stutters itself into the background as the synth explodes slow-motion into wild, jacked-up oscillations that lose all their musicality and become pure sonic force. When sufficiently amplified and fed into a properly chemically imbalanced brain, it is immense, inhuman, and almost beyond comprehension, like getting punched in the face by God. On Wink’s new double mix CD, Profound Sounds Volume 3 (Thrive), he deals in a more mannered, chilled-out strain of house, which could work equally well in a warehouse or the reception area of a boutique hotel. Ian Pooley and Brad Owen open. 10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-4140 or 312-559-1212, $10 before midnight, $15 after. –Miles Raymer

Saturday 20

THEO & THE SKYSCRAPERS It was starting to seem like Theo Kogan had abandoned punk to pursue a more demure line of work–modeling. True, the former Lunachicks front woman was never in danger of ending up the new face of Revlon (plenty of her jobs were for tattoo mags), but it’s still a relief to see she’s got a new band. The Skyscrapers are a trio of ridiculously tall greasy-haired guys, including Kogan’s boyfriend, ex-Toilet Boy Sean Pierce, who’s lately been rocking the creepiest mustache in all of punkdom. Their new self-titled debut is obviously Kogan’s show–she vamps through the band’s trashy gutter riffing with the same indestructible attitude she shows off on the CD cover, posing dramatically in a shiny black vinyl dress. The sound is reminiscent of the Plasmatics, slick with synth and sin, and Kogan comes off like a wild girl who doesn’t give a shit about much but a good time. Mexican Cheerleader opens. 10 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $8 in advance, $10 at the door, 18+. –Jessica Hopper

THINK ABOUT LIFE Noise-dance-pop is a subgenre in which players compete for attention by trying to make the most carefully assembled segues and samples sound cobbled together off the bedroom floor in some kind of visionary sugar-high state. These Montreal hipsters play a bubbly version, ridden with musical exclamation points, but it’s so damn textbook that the illusion of randomness is foiled. Mahjongg and Royce open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. –Monica Kendrick

Monday 22

ETERNALS For years I liked the idea of the Eternals more than their actual music–on paper, a guitarless rhythm machine that tapped into punk, dub, hip-hop, and abstract electronic music sounded great, but in practice it was often strangely lifeless. That changed with the band’s most recent full-length, 2004’s Rawar Style. New drummer Tim Mulvenna, formerly of the Vandermark 5, has energized the group, his brisk playing meshing with programmed loops to create a funky and surprisingly airy matrix of polyrhythms. Wayne Montana’s zigzagging bass lines glide through that thicket of beats like a snake, both anchoring the music and giving it a deep melodic undercurrent, and front man Damon Locks declaims with a new confidence that totally transforms the music: his hectoring vocals add a ferocious bite to the paranoid feel of “High Anxiety,” and on the lulling “Silhouette” his hovering incantation sounds like a magic spell. The recent High Anxiety EP (Aesthetics) includes some terrific remixes of material from Rawar Style, but the best tracks are the radical reworkings of old tunes, like the spooky, propulsive new version of “By This Time Today.” Expect plenty of new stuff at this show too–the next Eternals album is due this fall. Mandarin Movie headlines. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7. –Peter Margasak

Tuesday 23

DENA DEROSE Like Patricia Barber and Diana Krall, Dena DeRose started singing after establishing herself as an improvising pianist. Unlike those others, she didn’t have much choice: carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis forced her to stop playing for nearly three years in her early 20s, and singing was her only musical outlet. She’s polished her act in the intervening 15 years, but she still has the most naturalistic phrasing imaginable–I’d guess Fred Astaire is at least as big an influence as any of the better-regarded jazz divas. DeRose sets herself apart even from other naturalists, though, with pitch-perfect musicality and razor-sharp piano technique, both obvious products of her years of schooling. It’s a disarming combination, captured on last year’s trio disc A Walk in the Park (Maxjazz). DeRose wrote the jaunty title track and two strong ballads, but she also delights in finding underappreciated old songs–Al Jolson’s “All My Love,” for instance–and devising subtly altered settings for familiar standards. This is her Chicago debut, and it’s long overdue. Her engagement runs through next Sunday, May 28. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20. –Neil Tesser

Wednesday 24

DENA DEROSE See Tuesday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20.

Thursday 25

HAYES CARLL On his second album, last year’s Little Rock (Highway 87 Music), this young singer-songwriter follows the trail blazed by rebel country poets like Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, and Joe Ely. Like those guys, he’s a Texan who specializes in hard-luck stories: on “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long” he laments a fruitless stint in Nashville, and on “Good Friends” he humorously catalogs what’s become of high-school chums (“Well, Doug he went to prison for selling all his pot / And Rick’s in California being somethin’ that he’s not”). He also has the same eye for detail as his mentors, who’ve noticed: two of them, Guy Clark and Ray Wylie Hubbard, share songwriting credits. The killer band on the album, which includes guitarist Kenny Vaughn and guest vocalist Allison Moorer, brings a nice electric snap to his songs, but for this gig Carll’s playing solo. Ted Wulfers opens. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. –Peter Margasak

CHEATER SLICKS, CLONE DEFECTS, TIME FLYS Over the course of nearly 20 years, Ohio’s CHEATER SLICKS have specialized in rendering ennui, misanthropy, and Bukowski-flavored bitterness as something sweaty, terrifying, and fun–a real pot of gold at the end of nihilism’s monochromatic rainbow. Diffident and laissez-faire in their touring and recording habits, they’ve never displayed so much as a whiff of careerism–they just make their driven, dirty music and watch a lot of trends and bands come and go. Romanticize them any more than that and these guys are likely to clock you.

The CLONE DEFECTS are no longer an ongoing concern, but the Detroit four-piece is reuniting for the second time in six months (after a New Year’s Eve gig in their hometown) to help give the Horizontal Action Blackout a proper send-off. The band, whose members now serve in groups like Human Eye and Miss Alex White’s Red Orchestra, was one of the festival’s mainstays, making four appearances in six years. Their 2003 release, Shapes of Venus (released on In the Red, also home of the Cheater Slicks), continues to mark their vaunted spot in the Detroit scene’s recent history like some inexplicable monolith. –Monica Kendrick

Young wastrels the TIME FLYS follow the old rules of punk rock, from before everyone cut their hair and got thuggish. The Oakland quartet, which features a member of the Cuts, keeps things simple on its 2005 debut, Fly (Birdman), crafting switchblade bop straight out of the mid-70s glam rot of CBGB. Overdriven guitars and pounding drums create a loud-and-fast lo-fi hum only hot washes of crash cymbal can cut through, and on jaunty party kickers like “Jailbait” the band sings together in half harmony: “She was born / A little too late / Bait, bait / I need jailbait.” A few tracks from the forthcoming Rebels of Babylon are currently up on the group’s MySpace page, and from the sound of things it seems they might’ve shaken off some of the previous record’s hamminess and replaced it with a terse, rambunctious assault reminiscent of the Pagans or early MC5. –Jessica Hopper

This show is part of the final Horizontal Action Blackout; see page 38 for a complete schedule and Section 1 for Brian Costello’s festival retrospective. 8 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, sold out.

DENA DEROSE See Tuesday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20.

TARBOX RAMBLERS This Boston roots trio is so damn good it’s rapidly rising out of the folksy anonymity that scratchy old blues groups thrive on–you get spotted anywhere doing a Leadbelly song with Alison Krauss and Robert Plant and it’s the NPR circuit for you, boys! Thankfully the Ramblers are sly enough to evade the side effects of excess acclaim–on A Fix Back East (Rounder) they reinvigorate cliches with a slithery quick-wittedness that makes them delightfully difficult to pin down. 10 PM, FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $10. –Monica Kendrick