Unchecked Egos

Love Spit Love's Richard Butler has to be one of the vainest frontmen in rock -- not in the sillier sense of the term (a la, say, David Lee Roth), but in a far more tasteful and stern way. That makes him a particularly intriguing study in engorged ego. Diamond Daves, after all, are a dime a dozen in the music business; studied vanity of the sort that Butler dishes out, on the other hand, is a bit tougher to come by.

Butler began his narcissistic sojourn 17 years ago as the throaty lead singer of Britain's Psychedelic Furs, whose first three releases were a shot in the arm back in the disposable '80s. Psychedelic Furs, Talk Talk Talk and Forever Now are seminal new wave for the post-new wave consumer, and necessary listening for disaffected prep-school losers everywhere. Moreover, Forever Now's "Pretty in Pink" -- gussied up a bit for Hollywood -- proved the perfect encapsulation of teen-flick angst. Director John Hughes loved the tune enough to name a movie after it.

Modest commercial success aside, it soon became apparent that the Psychedelic Furs really had only three great releases (and maybe half a fourth) in them. Still, Butler and the band were stubborn, and they rode straight on through into the '90s, finally hanging it up with a fizzle in 1991.

While the new Psychedelic Furs retrospective just released on Columbia's Legacy label ought to supply ample evidence of the band's fleeting greatness -- and pad the members' bank accounts somewhat -- don't expect a reunion any time soon. Now that Butler has Love Spit Love to wave around, he's been adamant about severing his ties with the past. True to form, Love Spit Love's sophomore release, Trysome Eatone, is a showcase for Butler's cryptic lyrics, sallow world-view and emphysemic vocals. That act has worn a bit thin, but buoyed by a young, energetic band and his most appealing pop melodies in more than a decade, Butler seems almost jubilant. Such was certainly the case on Love Spit Love's last tour, when Butler worked the stage with a knowing grin and an arsenal of poses, stopping every now and then to admire his reflection in the head of the bass drum. Some things never change.

Another front guy not afraid to preen in public is Subcircus's Peter Bradley Jr., who looks positively fetching in makeup and pigtails in the latest publicity shot from his U.K. quartet. Obviously, Bradley isn't afraid to push the ambisexual envelope, not that doing so is anything special these days. More interesting is the out-and-out prettiness of Subcircus's sound, a sweeping union of Bowie-burlesque glam rock, new wave precociousness and low-cabaret theatrics. It's likely that the band's painstakingly weird and cerebrally seductive self-titled debut, Subcircus, will go nowhere fast here in America -- something that has less to do with the quality of Subcircus than, alas, the quality of the average U.S. listener. -- Hobart Rowland

Love Spit Love perform Wednesday, October 29, at the Urban Art Bar, 112 Milam. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8. Subcircus and Ugly Beauty open. For info, call 629-3700.

Dinosaur Jr. -- With their goofy blend of Sonic Youth explosiveness and Lemonhead tomfoolery, Dinosaur Jr. have been on the verge of some sort of breakthrough for a half-dozen years now. Yet their leader, J. Mascis, has never seemed reluctant to let attention shift to his competition. Just as the wide-eyed and smirky Dinosaur Jr. classics "Start Choppin' " and "Feel the Pain" began to propel the band to the indie rock fore, Mascis retreated to the sideline, aided by notoriously short live sets and frequent dodging of the media. Hand It Over, Dinosaur Jr.'s latest CD, threatens to undo that, renewing Mascis's status as a slacker cousin of Tom Petty, with the playfully careless instincts of a Neil Young. Recent Dinosaur Jr. shows have run well into overtime (by Mascis standards), and the band has even unearthed a few anthemic holdouts such as "Green Mind" and "Puke + Cry." What all of that means, you'll have to ask Mascis -- if he'll agree to talk about it. Thursday, October 23, at the Abyss, 5913 Washington Avenue. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12. 863-7173. (Stephen Gershon)

K-Ci and JoJo -- Talk about family values: These days, the music industry is besieged with moneymaking siblings, whether real (Oasis's Liam and Neil Gallagher) or fake (the Chemical Brothers). On the R&B end of things, there's the fraternal duo K-Ci and JoJo Hailey, the second, more energetic pair of brothers from the new-jack soul quartet Jodeci (the other pair being DeVante and "Mr. Dalvin" DeGrate). K-Ci and JoJo first branched out this summer with Love Always; now they've teamed up with yet another pair of brothers, Kevon and Melvin Edmonds of After 7, to form the foursome Milestone, whose new tune "I Care 'Bout You" is featured on the Soul Food soundtrack, which is written and produced by the Edmondses' other brother, Babyface. Who says family business isn't profitable? At 8 p.m. Friday, October 24, at the Arena Theatre, 7324 Southwest Freeway. With Brian McKnight, Rome and Changing Faces. Tickets are $24.50 and $27.50. 629-3700. (Craig D. Lindsey)

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Stephen Gershon
Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey
Hobart Rowland