Various ArtistsI [heart] SPARKLE*JETS UKCrab Apple Records

On the first track of this disc, International Pop Overthrow founder David Bash observes that it takes balls to orchestrate your own tribute CD—especially if the band being paid tribute isn't well-known outside SoCal, much less blazing up Billboard. But Sparkle*Jets UK, OC's super-cool purveyors of perfect power-pop, prove here that they possess (collectively) super-sized gonads. They also show that their friends in the incestuous LA pop scene are clever enough to take part in the cheeky task of covering Sparkle*Jets songs, most of which appear on their one album, the superb In, Through, And Beyond.So it's a covers thing, yes, but still a fine work all by its lonesome—in part because the original versions don't have that foul, played-to-death aftertaste. For most people, of course, these are unknown tunes, so it won't mean much when I tell you that the Dons take Sparkle*Jets' "She's My Fave" and give it a slower, groovier, bluesier spin (not unlike the slower, groovier, bluesier spin on "Revolution" that the Beatles put on the White Album), or that Wonderboy's scrunchy guitar sheen and yelpy, freaked-out vocals on "Surfin' Monkeys" actually match if not surpass the Sparkle*Jets' original, or that the Piper Downs take the exuberant liberation anthem "Oh Poor Me" and turn it into a mellow, mopey ballad, or that Jeremy Morris' cover of Big Star's "Thirteen" should really go on a Big Star tribute album but because Sparkle*Jets did it first on In, Through, and Beyond, it weirdly (and confusingly) becomes a tribute to Sparkle*Jets as filtered through Big Star as filtered back through Sparkle*Jets. It's a great album—the concept album of the year! But no amount of critical slobbering can equal the real deal, which you conveniently can experience for yourself Saturday night. Next, we propose a tribute album to the tribute album. (Rich Kane)

SPARKLE*JETS UK PLAY AN OC POP EXCHANGE SHOW WITH WALTER CLEVENGER, SCARLET CRUSH, THE ANDERSONS AND THE MASTICATORS AT THE GYPSY LOUNGE, 23600 ROCKFIELD, STE. 3A, LAKE FOREST, (949) 206-9990. SAT., 9 P.M. $7. 21+. AT THE DRIVE-IN
RELATIONSHIP OF COMMAND
GRAND ROYAL RECORDS

So here comes At the Drive-In, who, if you believe their hype, are the new Chosen Ones picked to lead modern rock out of its lunkheadedness. It's a daunting task—there are simply too many lunkheads for a band as pure as ATDI to blow up and redirect the course of things. No matter, really—we'll just keep them to ourselves, happy and content that an album as monstrously good as Relationship of Command exists and that spinning it makes us forget about all the hapless rap-rock acts out there. If you've caught this El Paso/Long Beach quintet any time in the past few years, then you already know about their amped-up, passionate shows, full of the kind of relentless, unsettled and unsettling urgency that great rock and punk once embodied a long, looong time ago—maybe as far back as the Nirvana era, even. Often compared to Fugazi because of their similar guitar dynamics and dissonance, ATDI's energy is really more on the hardcore level of Minor Threat, Ian MacKaye's first band. They're far too lively to be lumped into the emo scene and way too legit to get sucked into any commercial trend—think a looser Rage Against the Machine, but without the social-issue sloganeering and TRL appearances. Poofy-'froed singer Cedric Bixler's lyrics are largely stream-of-conscious ramblings chosen, it seems, more for their phonetic impact than for their literal meaning—he shrieks them in a high-pitched wail, as if he's going through one of Arthur Janov's primal scream courses. Brand At the Drive-In a catharsis-rock band—a raw-powered mechanism that'll help you cast off the daily bullshit sticking to your life. (Michael Coyle)

AT THE DRIVE-IN PERFORMS WITH THE MURDER CITY DEVILS AND THE 400 BLOWS AT THE GLASSHOUSE, 200 W. 2ND ST., POMONA, (714) 647-7704 AND (909) 469-5800. WED., 7:30 P.M. $9.99. ALL AGES.
 
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