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Unpolished Gem

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Just when you thought there wasn't the smallest sliver of room in rock for yet another in-your-face, acid-tongued gal, along comes Ruby's Lesley Rankine. Once rumored to have been in the running for lead voice of Garbage, Rankine has hardly been left fending for scraps since fellow Scot Shirley Manson won the job. Indeed, the former member of Silverfish -- a musical collective known more for its spontaneous mayhem and its "Hips Tits Lips Power" T-shirts than for its talent -- has emerged with a newfound maturity and method behind her madness.

Rankine formed Ruby after leaving Great Britain to hook up with studio whiz Mark Walk (ex-Pigface) in Seattle. By then, she had already paid her dues; now, she's in a position to deal with her own musical desires rather than having to bend to the will of a male majority -- as was the case in not only Silverfish, but also her groundbreaking affiliation with Pigface, the industrial supergroup made up of members of Ministry and Skinny Puppy. Already, there have been plenty of Bjsrk comparisons (just look at her publicity photo), but there's more to Rankine than blue hair and odd quirks. Sure, on Ruby's debut, Salt Peter, she showcases grubby little songs such as "Paraffin" (which is about the smell of body fluids during sex), but the CD's multilayered dance beats, R&B strains, scratchy tape loops and industrial rock prevents the mood from being dragged through the mud.

Despite what the CD's title implies, Ruby's music is more of an aphrodisiac than a sexual inhibitor. On occasion, the band wades knee-deep into Trent Reznor territory, as on the grinding "Pine," a semi spoken-word piece on which Rankine displays the toughness of her Scottish brogue, showing that while she may no longer lash out with quite the same fury as she did in her Silverfish days, she's no marshmallow, either.

Monday's pairing of Ruby with U2-influenced Irelanders Schtum at the Satellite Lounge should make for an interesting night of people watching. Certainly, bringing in a double bill of edgy Europeans is a departure from the club's typical domestic fare. It's also a heck of a way to kick-start your week. -- Greg Barr

Ruby performs at 9 p.m. Monday, March 18, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $5. Schtum opens. For info, call 869-COOL.

Blue Mountain -- Like many musicians looking for a way to grab the brass ring in a hurry, Blue Mountain's core couple, guitarist Cary Hudson and bassist Laurie Stirrat, left home (which in their case meant the dirt roads, mobile homes and weathered mansions of Oxford, Mississippi) for Los Angeles. They lasted there about a year -- and thank God they didn't stay, because Blue Mountain's rustic concoction of threadbare guitars, earthy harmonies and gnawingly familiar melodies belongs back home in Mississippi. The band -- Hudson, Stirrat and drummer Frank Coutch -- has been on the road for what seems like forever, playing music that borrows liberally from well-used sources, including Neil Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, while never failing to remember its country, blues and bluegrass roots. Words touch on the simple marvels of rural life, fond recollections and everyday travails, while managing on occasion to insert a modest brand of homegrown politics into the mix. Blue Mountain has much in common with the Bottle Rockets, Wilco and Son Volt, the last of whom they'll be opening for in Houston. For all these bands, performing live is more about songs than presentation -- and it's just that passion for the music that makes their shows satisfying. You could call Blue Mountain a Southern rock band in the way that, say, Crazy Horse is a Southern rock band. With glowing comparisons like that, it's likely Blue Mountain wouldn't argue the point. At the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, Thursday, March 14, 3616 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $6. 869-COOL. (Hobart Rowland)

Skiploader -- Painfully aware of living in a city that's been over-hyped as the "next Seattle," Portland, Oregon's Skiploader have been intent on finding a sound that's their own, not just a pale shadow of their musical neighbors. The degree to which they've succeeded thus far can be heard on From Can Through String, a slick major-label debut that hasn't been subjected to the wimpy wiles of a highbrow producer. The group hired relative newcomer and band bud Tony Lash to record the CD, and still managed to come up with a high-caliber product. Granted, there is a docile tone to From Can Through String. The material is smartly administered grunge pop with a slant toward minor chords, weird changes in momentum and revealing, confessional-style lyrics, but Skiploader's normal surplus of energy feels compressed. Be sure, though, that any lack of recorded punch is being remedied on tour. If Skiploader is really the souped-up road machine most say it is, then frontman Tom Ackerman is certainly its overhauled engine, baring his soul in front of a live audience with the same hypersensitive, do-or-die intensity he brings to his writing. This is a real instance in which nothing beats the living, breathing item. At the Urban Art Bar, 112 Milam, Saturday, March 16. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5. 225-0500. (

 
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