Showbox at 8 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 17, with Elbow and the Starlight Mints. $15 adv./$17.
In the future, we'll have no choice, so we'll rejoice. Thom Yorke leads Radiohead through antitechnology rants that obsess over chilling no-way-out scenarios in which the natural world is just as terrifying as the mechanized one. Quasi's Sam Coomes couches his dystopian worries with the secret fantasy that he might finally be happy once the machines take over. And fellow technophobe careerist Jason Lytle of Grandaddy never waxes as complex when he narrates his phobias about the future. Pissed off but pragmatic, Lytle instead dials up a midtempo, synth-perking buzz and rides it from cubicle to cubicle, picking up disaffected entry-level assistants with every detached repetition of "I'm OK with my decay." The songs on Sumday (V2 Records), the solid, June-released follow-up to Grandaddy's 2000 breakthrough, The Sophtware Slump, certainly offer up some dreary visuals: factory robots working undaunted in the dark, lonely office projects literally crying for attention, business park sprinklers going off at night when no one notices. But don't let the band's no-future dreaming fool you: Grandaddy are a classic pop band with a keyboard jones, Fountains of Wayne with beards, a Moog synthesizer, and a metronome stuck on slo-mo. The halting, catchy melodies and lush production don't just belie the lyrical hand-wringingthey tend to gloss the words almost completely, melding the declaration of freedom "Now It's On" and the resigned snapshot of "The Saddest Vacant Lot in All the World" into a single drowsy mood. Onstage, the band is much livelier. Eschewing the alienation in their lyrics even further, Grandaddy actually bond enough with their audience to forestall the band's descent into 21st-century office minutiae. And when everybody sings along to "I'll be down for some time/I'll be down for some time," it sounds like we might have the choice to rejoice after all. Hallelujah! CHRIS LORRAINE
Showbox at 8 p.m.
Mon., Oct. 20, with DJ P-Love, DJ Jester, and Lederhosen Lucil and animated shorts by Monkmus. $15 adv./$17.
You could say that what scratch DJ Kid Koala does isn't hip-hop at all, since you can't really dance to it and there's no room for a rapper. But as an improviser, he can't be beat. Live, his snatches of voice, sound effects, and music recall Joseph Cornell's fragile, bricolaged boxes, the elements arranged with a formalist's logic that keeps everything from collapsing, an in-the-mix skill that makes one tentatively reach for the word "jazz" as something other than affectation. Which makes his new album, Some of My Best Friends Are DJs (Ninja Tune), so disappointing. Opening with the staggering (in both senses of the word) "Basin Street Blues"taking off from his classic "Drunk Trumpet"Koala chops and scratches new solos out of old, less brass fantasias than little rusted golems stumbling across the proscenium. He sticks this tiny masterpiece up front, but it's false advertising, because it's the most interesting thing on the album. The rest of Best Friends seems pretty comfortable territory for the Kid: tiny pops of speech and noise, stumblebum beats that are little more than ballast, and a kind of gentle whimsy. Plus he has the most limited tonal range of any major scratch DJ (his scratches always sound like screaming 'toon car horns right out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?). Hip-hop's godfathers of bricolage, Double Dee & Steinski, should be driving around in R. Kelly's stretch Navigator for the number of times their "funny instructor voices from old 45s" routine has been ripped off, and Koala should know better anyway. Without a major reinvention (dropping the beats for good might be a start), Koala risks the kind of self-parody that's doubly sad when you figure he has the whole history of recorded sound at his fingertips. JESS HARVELL
Crocodile Cafe at 9:30 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 15, with Coven of One and Bill Horist. $12 adv.
With a voice like C3PO's and the gentle manner of E.T.right down to the handshakeEdward Ka-Spel makes for a fascinating study in eccentricity. But despite his film-critter traits, ghostly demeanor, and perpetually chipped black nail polish, the Legendary Pink Dots co-founder and experimentalist-at-large is made of far sterner stuff than your average odd duck. He's managed to keep the Dots together and cranking out albums for 23 years, through a move from England to the Netherlands, his own intraband divorce, and enough personnel changes to make Spinal Tap turn all their gear into furniture. Ka-Spel has never wavered so much as a single micron from his commitment to antinostalgic psychedelia. His latest solo release, O'er a Shalabast'r Tyde Strolt Ay (Beta-Lactam), finds the lifelong psychonaut adding a healthy draught of latter-day Dots menace and adventure to the bubbly, three-quarter-time, interstellar sea chanteys that he favored a couple of decades ago. In fact, on "An Ill Wind," the album's strongest track, Ka-Spel waxes more apocalyptic than he has since 1998's Nemesis Onlineand more political, right down to a reference to "Beezelbub and his buddy George." The rest of the album leans toward the abstract end of the Dots' oeuvre, thereby maintaining Ka-Spels' precious demographic balance. Which is goodafter all, how many artists can fill a room with psych-heads, Goths, and experimental geeks, then proceed to make each clump have whatever its idea of a real good time is? ROD SMITH