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Saturday: You know he's Dwighty. Photo by Randee St. Nicholas

The Nervous Return: Duran Durancid. At Detroit.

Star-crossed hip-hop Sky Saxon Fatlip pops out for a public appearance at the Blue Caf, probably as much to let us know he's alive as to let us know how he sounds. Low-profile could be a way to describe a lot of what he's been doing since he got axed as his group the Pharcyde began to go to slivers—wore out his welcome, groupmates said later—but he finally (like years-finally) groped toward the release of his solo record Thelonliest Punk. Pharcyde survivor interviews say there's no animosity toward Fatlip—just pity, which is kind of rough, and respect, which saps off some of the roughness, but still: "Coulda been a legend like B.I.G. and 'pac/But I caught a bad case of writer's block" is how Fatlip puts it, and he's-just-crazy is how old band mates put it, and somewhere in between is probably the real story of an MC who looked like he was gonna do one thing and then disappeared to do another. Rapping over Meters beats like it's 1992, but leaving out the jokes: when he says he's a dweeb who doesn't sell, well, sorry about all the downloading.

ALSO: I made up the term Blue Cher, and Tsk Tsk made it into a band. Good for them: gypsies, tramps and summertime blues at Alex's with support from Dirty Little Secret, who, despite what they tell you, sound like Erasure plus Franz Ferdinand.

PLUS: Beat Junkies J-Rocc and Melo D at Detroit; Policeman Andy Summers at the Coach House; exemplary human being and MC 2MEX with Ozomatli at the Glass House.

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A gift for Dwight Yoakam that he (like you and me) is doomed to age in increments every day, because every day older is a day further departed from the pretty-boy pop-country of his cheekbonier years and toward the Sweetheart of the Rodeocountry rock that Dwight actually came up with when he first began playing out in LA. Not sure how much patience he has for overproduction and this new record these days, but his live songs aren't too far off from a guy like Greg Cartwright, who likes a little pedal-steel just as much but probably dresses better, and who I tested out on my dad just like you should test out on yours. Puffing toward dignified statesmanhood at the HOB.

AND: A shoegazer band? Till right up at the end, when they turn into like Throbbing Gristle and stomp on all their stuff—if Hello Astronaut, Goodby Television (their pidgin, not mine) are as young as they look, they're writing way above where they should be (with barely there Young Marble Giants air-pop and vox so soft you could stitch them into pillows) and pitching fits worthy of a tonsil-swollen 2-year-old. Senior Rec, found your prom dates: "We're cute kids who play cute music," they shrug, "and at the end, it's just like a big explosion." With fraternal support by Blow Up Blow and LA's Sharp Ease at the Prospector.

Colorado punker country band Drag the River headlines birthday celebrations for Alex's Bar stalwart Jasper, over extremely beer-friendly rawk-rock from dudes like Jackass and LosMysteriosos. Those rockabilly kids got to play their own private Cheers at the Doll Hut for years, and now Alex's is running the same kind of homey operation in Long Beach. Plus free barbecue—that is just exactly how to say "Thanks for being alive, buddy!"

Excellently reproduced comp of tracks from dub cabal Wackies out this week: DUB UNLIMITED: BULLWACKIES ALL STARS has plenty of hot hiss and wet guitar and submarine-sinking bass; funky tracks that would smooth right into "Juice Box" (Jackie Mittoo) or "Heavy Rock" (Sound Dimension). Find it where the most solid records are sold; buy vinyl or delete MP3s.

Here, honey, I made you . . . this . . . article.

Well, they really do sound like Gang of Four, but just three Gang of Four tracks on the worthwhile Fast Product Mutant Pop compilation: Geisha Girls, do I have a CD I need to burn for you. Singer/etc. Roller exactly re-creates ("Skinny Wrists") that cruddy cardboard-box guitar tone all those Leeds post-punkers must have wished they could trade in for something a little more Catfish Collins; rhythm section Mike and Shawn hang out a low-end like a lifeboat over ice water. Admirably and anonymously post-punk just like the Scars, who no one remembers but who were pretty great before the drum machine. Geishas, learn that lesson at Que Sera.

Valient Thorr follows Zolar X down from the outer reaches of the solar system and crashes straight into a big fat ugly rock: this is meteor Motörhead, already the graveyard of a thousand other bands that aimed high and had no plans for landing. But singer Valient's wild Kim-Fowley-ish psycho-patter—"This used to be a slaughterhouse, back in the 1920s—in this time stream . . ."—and trash-tee-vee back story (Valient crashed on Earth from Venus; now, like Ziggy and Zolar before them, they accept their destiny as rock-starmen and travel the spaceways from brew pub to brew pub) is the only sign of life in this disappointingly boring—yes, they jump around a lot, but so does a cockroach on a hot plate—computer-calculated hard rock. All that alien technology, and they're still light-years behind Hawkwind or even Early Man. But stare into the spaceman's face anyway at Alex's.

PLUS: Brook Lee Catastrophe: lots and lots of Astral Weeks Van Morrison and maybe a little of the Band when it's good and deepest dude at the frat house when it's not. Whoever compared this to the Velvet Underground must have just landed from Venus: remember, even Dylan wears Dockers these days at Detroit.

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