Legendary Oddballs Ween Paint the Town Brown

A case could be made for San Francisco's American Music Club being a truly American counterpart to Britain's Joy Division. Although they're sonically different, the two groups share common ground in journeying through various ventricles of the Heart of Darkness, with darkly poignant melodies and haunting vocals as the soundtrack. Frontman Mark Eitzel has a distinctive voice — a gently sardonic, desert-dry croon — and a harrowing worldview. Witness "Blue and Grey Shirt," a remembrance of friends lost to AIDS, and "America Loves the Minstrel Show," about our bread-and-circuses media. The Club frames Eitzel's tales with shards of punk, country, and folk, alternately lush and austere. American Music Club has been imaginatively bumming out audiences since 1983 — don't be left out: See them Friday, Nov. 9, at Rickshaw Stop at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $10; call 861-2011 or visit www.rickshawstop.com for more info. — Mark Keresman

Since its inception amidst the original L.A. punk scene, Redd Kross has maintained a strange relationship with the musical zeitgeist. The band's first recorded lineup featured future members of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, but its creative center was 14-year-old singer Jeff McDonald and his 11-year-old bass-playing brother, Steve. As scrappy as any hardcore band, the group preferred to write New York Dolls–inspired surf/trash odes to Annette Funicello and call out bleach blondes. By the end of the '80s the sugar-fortified group was inviting its listeners to a "Bubblegum Factory," where Jeff could be found harmonizing with Susan Cowsill. Redd Kross mocked hair metal while looking effeminate and boasting a shred maven on lead guitar. The band comes to the Bay Area for the first time in a decade, boasting the lineup of its 1987 "bubblegrunge" classic Neurotica. Expect a career-spanning set, including some rarely-played-live gems, when it performs on Friday, Nov. 9, at Slim's at 9 p.m. Admission is $20; call 255-0333 or visit www.slims-sf.com for more info. John Garmon

Dedicated to re-creating vintage Cambodian garage rock from the late '60s, L.A. outfit Dengue Fever has been delivering a unique take on exotic psychedelic pop since 2001. Though brothers Ethan and Zac Holtzman started the group to pay tribute to the unhinged Khmer interpretations of Western rock Ethan heard while backpacking through Angkor Wat, Dengue Fever has evolved into a far more sophisticated creature. Elements of Ethiopian jazz, klezmer, and surf are anchored by the bewitching vocals of Cambodian songstress Ch'hom Nimol. The band previews songs from its third album, Venus on Earth (set for release early next year), when it returns to San Francisco on Friday, Nov. 9, at the Independent at 9 p.m. Admission is $15; call 771-1421 or visit www.theindependentsf.com for more info. Dave Pehling

Granted, Dean and Gene Ween have about 60 albums to go before they amass a discography the size of Frank Zappa's, but the comparisons between the artists are apt. For more than two decades, the screwball Pennsylvania duo has explored virtually every musical style known to man, and their fondness for the absurd — and the occasional dick joke — frequently overshadows some serious musicianship and compositional ability. Having already earned a sturdy cult following, in recent years Ween has also been embraced by the jam-band scene, probably due to its legendarily fantastic live shows and liberal concert-taping policies. That means even if albums like the recent La Cucaracha don't sell like hotcakes, there'll always be a home for the duo on the road. Ween performs on Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Warfield at 8 p.m. Admission is $35; call 567-2060 or visit www.livenation.com for more info. Michael Alan Goldberg

Watching Spiritualized is like going to church. For followers of Jason Pierce's long-running revolving-door project, nothing comes as close to touching God as hearing his music. The curiously enigmatic musician is on a four-day teaser jaunt across North America with no release attached to the tour. Spiritualized's last album, Amazing Grace, came out in 2003, and its as-yet-untitled follow-up will be released next spring. The current "Acoustic Mainline Tour" includes material from Spiritualized's four-album catalog, as well as Pierce's previous band, Spacemen 3. What makes this show exceptional is the enhancement of the songs with strings and gospel singers, going that extra step in making it a full religious experience. Spiritualized performs on Sunday, Nov. 11, at Bimbo's at 8 p.m. Admission is $32; call 474-0365 or visit www.bimbos365club.com for more info. — Lily Moayeri

Dan Wilson's modest Minneapolis band Semisonic became famous in America in 1998 for its tipsy anthem "Closing Time," and in the U.K. for a more interesting single, "Secret Smile." The latter was more indicative of Wilson's songwriting abilities, which are reflected well on his recently released solo debut, Free Life. Five years in the making and executive-produced by Rick Rubin, it features perfect hooks and melody galore. It touches on existential themes, which isn't surprising for an artist whose band was dropped from its label after its platinum success. Wilson subsequently found redemption co-writing with the Dixie Chicks, and shared a Song of the Year Grammy with them for "Not Ready to Make Nice." Wilson's introspective songs are better suited for small clubs than giant arenas. Hear for yourself when he opens for Sondre Lerche on Sunday, Nov. 11, at the Swedish American Hall at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $18-20; call 861-5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com for more info. Ben Westhoff

 
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