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Cult Survivors

Here's a quiz: when singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy of the Cult parted company last year, they did so on somewhat less than amicable terms because they: a) had beaten the crap out of each other in a drunken brawl after a concert in Rio de Janeiro; b) couldn't fit both their heads in one hotel room at the same time for fear of an ego implosion; or c) had a hard time understanding why their fans preferred older, more pompous Cult rockers such as "Fire Woman" to the newer, more fussed-over stuff.

Stumped? It's okay, seeing as the real answer is d) all of the above.
After the Cult's dissolution, it didn't take Astbury long to decide that he wasn't comfortable kicking back and living off the past. He left his comfy digs in Los Angeles, zipped back to England to form Holy Barbarians -- which includes onetime Cult drummer Scott Garrett -- put out a CD titled Cream and is now starting at the bottom of the rock-star food chain with a humbling club tour. Only time will tell if Astbury will end up like Billy Idle (sorry, Idol), whose career fizzled after he and guitarist Steve Stevens ended their long-standing love/hate relationship.

The most promising thing about Holy Barbarians is the fact that Astbury, his long, dark locks newly trimmed, seems to have shed the more annoying traits of the mystical-shaman-meets-Jim-Morrison shtick he had cultivated with the Cult. His new songs focus on the tried and true sex-and-drugs motif, and are most decidedly not the chunky arena rockers of old. Fresh starts are never easy; how well Astbury adjusts to Cult fans' repeated screams for Barbarians renditions of old Cult tunes should give a hint as to whether he's cut out for this resurrection business.

-- Greg Barr

Holy Barbarians perform Friday, June 21, at the Urban Art Bar, 112 Milam. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10, 21 and up; $12, 18 to 20. For info, call 225-0500.

Grover Dill -- If you've been frequenting McGonigel's Mucky Duck, you're already well aware of the post-breakup course taken by one half of Trish and Darin. Trish Murphy (who performs Friday at the Duck) has spent the last year reinventing herself as a giddy, guitar-strumming gal about town, and her skill at infusing sophisticated folk-pop hooks with a charming measure of slice-of-life country sass is earning her a loyal local following. As for T&D's other half, Darin Murphy has been living the life of the struggling musician in Austin, and now, after months of aborted tries, he's assembled his first salient post-T&D project, Grover Dill. Sometimes a quartet, sometimes a trio, Grover Dill is basically a sounding board for the male Murphy's quirky art-pop inclinations, which lean heavily toward the Fab Four and XTC. Murphy (who, by the way, does an impeccable John Lennon imitation) makes no apologies for his song writing, which has a tendency to leave his influences lying naked for all to see. Apologies definitely aren't needed on-stage, where Grover Dill's rhythm section grooves righteously. And its leader remains a likable, engaging front guy. Opening for the Mermen Thursday, June 20, at the Urban Art Bar, 112 Milam. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5, 21 and up; $7, 18 to 20. 225-0500. (Hobart Rowland)

The Hollisters -- No gig, it seems, is beneath the Hollisters -- a rundown of the Houston band's last few hundred shows attests to that. See them in the cozy confines of the Boat Yard one night, then catch them at the International Festival the next afternoon; watch them entertain the cutting-edge crowd at the Blue Iguana one week, then join the kicker contingent at the Firehouse for a performance the next. Frankly, it's gotten to the point where this hard-driving, neo-honky-tonk foursome is in danger of spreading themselves too thin. No matter. Me, I'll continue seeing the Hollisters on a biweekly basis just to get geared up for their debut CD, which they promise will be available sooner than later. Another high-spirited run through the tunes I've been hearing for the last ten months, and the boys have sold me all over again. Guitarist Eric "Eddie Dale" Danheim is Houston's mild-mannered answer to Pete Anderson; singer Mike Barfield's muttonchops and Cash-goes-to-Bakersfield vocals aren't too shabby either. And the songs? Well, let's just say they welcome repeated listens -- as they should. At the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue, at 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 21. Tickets are $5. 869-

 
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