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VHS or Beta are set on disintegrating the dance floor; Blue Merle equals Coldplay plus an electric mandolin

Louisville, Ky., quartet VHS or Beta has undergone marked changes in its three years between album releases. Once thought of as an instrumental "jam band" with dance-music leanings (see '02's Daft Punkstyled Le Funk), the group now pledges an undying allegiance to Duran Duran and Echo & the Bunnymen. Its latest, Night on Fire, serves up tributary vocal inflections and bass-heavy rumblings set to house music's default rhythm and tempo. These days, VHS or Beta mines the entirety of the dance-rock spectrum. Alongside devious beat barons Electric Six and local techno wizard Jefrodisiac, VHS or Beta will likely leave the dance floor in tatters when it performs on Wednesday, April 20, at the Independent; call 771-1421 or visit w ww.theindependentsf.com for more info. -- Tamara Palmer

Not that anyone was wondering, but thanks to Blue Merle the world now knows what would happen if Adult Alternativeloving scientists secretly cloned Chris "Coldplay" Martin's voice box and implanted it in the gullet of Dave "Frat Rock" Matthews. Blue Merle singer Luke Reynolds' voice, while strong, is at times indistinguishable from Martin's, right down to its midlyric crackle into falsetto, but Reynolds' clichéd rhymes lack all of Coldplay's depth. Good thing Beau Stapleton's electric mandolin helps differentiate the act's sound a little. Despite the band's shout-out to the '70s -- the name's swiped from a Led Zep song -- this Nashville foursome does pretty, sentimental wuss-pop that's firmly embedded in the mid-'90s, which makes it a good match for headliner and former Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman Glen Phillips. Try to resist the urge to scream "Yellow!" at the stage when Blue Merle plays on Saturday, April 23, at Slim's; call 255-0333 or visit www.slims- sf.com for more info.-- Maya Kroth

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