Existing under many names since 1978, the Russian-based Auktyon was finally granted membership to the Leningrad Rock Club in 1983, becoming the only rock band representing its country on the European club scene with any regularity. While the group's 1988 album Return to Sorrento has only recently been released to the mass market, it is a deliciously fresh blend of ska, reggae, new jazz, pop, and rock sifted through a European folk filter with an Asiatic flavor packet. Slinky, complex, and full bodied, it brings to mind the Czech Republic's Uz Jsme Doma, without the mania. Auktyon makes a rare appearance on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the Last Day Saloon at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15; call 387-6343.
After listening to Good Looking Blues, it's not entirely surprising to learn that Laika chanteuse Margaret Fielder will be pulling down guitar duty on Polly Jean Harvey's next world tour. It is clear the women share parallel musical sensibilities; listening to Laika's third album immediately brings to mind the more tender moments on Harvey's To Bring You My Love. Layers of luxurious, dusky, electronic orchestration, accentuated by bass clarinet, conga, trumpet, flute, and guitar, add to the brooding effect of Fielder's words. The husky staccato of her voice on the haunting "Go Fish" ("She didn't know I saw her/ Kneeling by the water/ Her mother always fought her/ Didn't love her daughter") is distinctly reminiscent of Harvey's clipped whispers on "Down by the Water" ("Little fish big fish/ Swimming in the water/ Come back here and give me my daughter") but, unlike the unutterable violence implied in Harvey's music, Laika's song is infused by the sorrowful, more comforting strains of an Irish air. On the whole, there is little room for rage on Good Looking Blues. Fielder is delicately resolved: Her music spreads out with slow-moving warmth and slithering coolness like the sigh and the salve afforded wounds after a big storm. When she eventually lets us see the lighter side of her heart, on the shimmering elegy to e-mail viruses "Badtimes" ("It will drink all your beer and leave its socks on the table when company is coming over/ It will hide your keys when you're late for work/ And make you fall in love with a penguin/ It will give you nightmares about circus midgets"), it is easy to imagine the well-crafted yarn is entirely for the benefit of our recovery. Laika performs on Friday, Sept. 29, at Slim's with Knife & Fork opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12-14; call 255-0333.
We've waited too long for Cloverleaf Fandango: A Truck Odyssey, the first CD by San Francisco's first band in comedic cowpunk -- the foulmouthed, greasy-nailed, oil-guzzling, long-haul-dreaming Crosstops. The album has everything you could ever wish for in a neon-lit truck stop in a pussy-filled paradise: big rig horn blasts; howling lot lizards; yodeling beer bellies; derisive diatribes against hippies, yuppies, deadbeat dads, and road-hogging bastards, all mingled with odes to loose women and rumbling white trash. Cloverleaf Fandango captures the frenzied lunacy of a live Crosstops show without muddling the playing prowess of Wooper, Eyeball, Porkchop, and Chatty. Still, it's live that the true trashiness of the Crosstops shines like a chromed hubcap on a custom rig, making the group's CD party a spectacle not to be missed. The elaborately planned "Hoo Haw" will be a Hee Haw-inspired trucker variety show, hosted by Count Dante and featuring the fabulous Giblet Dribblers as house band. There also promises to be uncouth stand-up comedians, rude sketch comedy, and special surprises of the whip-and-rope variety. Free CDs will be given to the first 100 wrecks through the door, and there will be roadkill aplenty. The Crosstops headline on Sunday, Oct. 1, at Slim's with Slender, the Barfeeders, Venus Bleeding, and Hotbox performing 20-minute sets starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 255-0333.
Correction: The Grandmothers, with former members of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, are playing on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at Paradise Lounge. Sorry for the confusion.