Cigarettes & Carrot Juice: The Santa Cruz Years, spinART's Camper Van Beethoven box set from last year, handily reminded aging college rockers and enthusiastic youngsters of frontman David Lowery's impressive knack for throwing together disparate musical elements and making them stick: Scruffy roots-rock licks, excitable ska tempos, trashy metal riffs, and Eastern European folkisms all got major play inside Camper's heady brew, but none at the expense of the band's wise-assed sense of humor. Countrysides, the latest from Lowery's indefatigable post-Camper group Cracker, proves that Lowery can be just as good with a more limited palette, roaring through a set of semiclassic country covers without much in the way of formal deviation. You keep waiting for some wacky interjection that never comes; Merle Haggard's "Reasons to Quit" gets pitch-perfect organ that goes from the church to the palace, Hank Williams Jr.'s "Family Tradition" boils up a bit of Louisiana accordion, Ray Wylie Hubbard's "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mothers" moves with a barroom bounce. Lowery channels his heroes vocally, too, sloshing his way through Haggard's "The Bottle Let Me Down" and rubbing the melody of Bruce Springsteen's "Sinaloa Cowboys" against his voice's natural grit. That old sense of mischief does surface in closer "Ain't Gonna Suck Itself," a rowdy, Lowery-penned kiss-off to former employer Virgin Records, and in a handful of subtle lyrical tweaksin "Family Tradition," the singer notes that "alternative country singers have always been a real close family." And thanks to context, "Duty Free" gets a blast of undergraduate urgency: "I've got to get the fuck out of the U.S.A." MIKAEL WOOD
Cracker play the Showbox with Cowboy Mouth at 8 p.m. Thurs., Nov. 13. $17.50 adv./$20.
Secret Weapon Revealed at Last
(In the Red)
The Country Teasers have written the world's best tennis song ("Panty Shots") and the most beautiful Garden of Eden orgy scenario ever ("Adam Wakes Up"). On Secret Weapon Revealed at Last's "Deaths," Teasers frontman B.R. Wallers, buttressed by a looping harmonium riff, gives post-traumatic stress counseling a shot, consoling, "You look in the mirror/Your face is very sad/Those people who just died/You miss them pretty bad/Rub a little salt in any wounds that you might have/And have a cry for yourself/You'll feel better when you've had." However unlikely, the puke-yellow Stuart Smalley V-neck suits Wallers just fineit's the best song the mostly English quintet has ever written. But SWRaL, the Teasers' weakest album to date, is a far cry from the band's decade-long shtick of tossing Big Black's everyone-fuck-off creed into a Fall-gone-almost-country sound. Once a world's-greatest-bar-band-in-the-world's-worst-bar kinda outfit (how they've avoided appearing in a Jim Jarmusch or Troma flick escapes me), the Teasers now excel when Wallers warbles while lonely, forlorn, and drunk, because it's then, with his chin pressed firmly to his clavicle, that he becomes a shorter, brasher, and more English Hank Williams. "Life Is a Rehearsal" is pure last-gasp Hank, as Wallers mourns his path less traveled with tape-manipulated vocals and hiccuping screams. Don't sweat it, B.R. Uncle Hank's awaiting you on the other side. YANCEY STRICKLER
Electroclash this is not. Sure, Client use the tools of the tradesynths and drum machinesand derive much of their sound from the decade before last. But, like a more grown-up Adult., the Manchester-based duo dig deeper into the past as well, finding inspiration in the subversive vein first tapped by fellow northerners Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, and Clock DVA. They even emulate early industrial shock troopers SPK in the anonymity department by simply being "Client A" and "Client B"; they're usually photographed from the neck down in tight, calf-length skirts, thereby evoking the sorts of high-buck S&M escapades that begin with airport ambulance abductions and end in cascades of zeros and ones. Even minus the mystery, Client would have no reason to resort to electroclash's high-school talent show histrionics or interminable terminal cuteness attacks. They actually know how to program their gearplay it even! Nowhere on the album is this better demonstrated than on the opener, "Client." Working off the sort of muscular, midtempo 303- and 808-driven groove that Derrick May might have generated in his teens, they alternate (surprise!) their moniker with a cavalcade of corporate clich鳺 "Client/Available on request/Client/We never say no." While their deadpan delivery is pure '80s, the synapse-ripping synth solo that ends the song is future perfect. This instrumental formidability, combined with the near subliminals Client float in under oscillators that sound like they're about to self-destruct in a shower of sparks ("You'll love it when I'm mean to you . . . this is just like movie sex . . . fuck off, don't touch me there"), sends an acetone-clear message to the likes of Peaches, et al.: Amateur hour is over. Let the real games begin. ROD SMITH
At Crystal Palace
Expect no warm beats, empathy, or ecstasy cookies from this female San Francisco quartet's self-termed "dance music." These propulsive rhythms seem crafted out of necessity, pared down to the essential logic of raw muscle, bone, ligament, and sinew. Chiseled to a lean, mean 27 minutes, At Crystal Palace is a dancing machine with any remaining curves surgically removed. Lead singer Jenny Hoyston spits her lyrics more than she sings them, but she also possesses a rich, disarmingly pretty alto, which she should allow to let soar more often. "Suprize It's Easter" and "Let's Be Active c/o Club Hott" harness Ellie Erickson's all-over-the-place bass and Bianca Sparta's razor-sharp drumbeats to propel multiple-movement miniaturized song fragments, by turns corrugated and smooth, terrifyingly charged-up and silkily expressive. The album does risk becoming samey at points, and could benefit from varying the format, particularly in terms of tempoafter all that jittery midrange, we could use a slow groove or two, if only to catch our breath. There's a spiritual connection between Erase Errata's totally wired shtick and the nervous energy emanating from the Contortions' "Dish It Out," the frenzied opener to the no-wave cult classic No New York, but the no-wave comparisons end there. At Crystal Palace, like its predecessor, Other Animals, doesn't so much revive post-punk as speak its language so fluently that it becomes instinct. Not to mention that these four women could eat your favorite let's-party-like-it's-1979 revivalists for breakfast. GEETA DAYAL
Although 1997 feels like it was light years ago, that was when the members of post-rock experimental outfit Rachel's began scouring N.Y.C. with their DAT recorder and picking up pieces of noise for their fifth release. Other projects postponed a more immediate use of the collected sounds, but in 2000, the Louisville band met members of the Saratoga International Theater Institute Company (SITI) and a collaboration using those field recordings was planned. Through SITI, Rachel's learned a lot about improvisational communication while they continued to explore found sounds by soliciting audio files from their audiophile fans. Six yearsand one more important collaboration, this one with singer/songwriter Shannon Wrightlater, they had 19 songs' worth of musical drama and dramatic music. In an overt attempt to address the issues of contemporary urban living, the selected sound clips were slipped inside Rachel's rich, chamber-pop compositions (some recorded with members of the Louisville Orchestra), and anyone who has ever felt blissfully alone inside the whirl of a busy, cacophonous city will distinctly recall that sensation on several of the tracks. With "Water From the Same Source," it's in the hollow, far-away cymbal that paces human foot steps and the exquisite piano line that comes in as the contemplative loop in that human's head. "Wouldn't Live Anywhere Else" evokes a lifetime spent on a city block. Though it contains very little actual music, the sound clips are collaged into a strangely melodic story line with one of the sweetest endnotes ever: "And that's why we stayed here." So will you. LAURA CASSIDY
Rachel's play On the Boards at 9 p.m. Sat., Nov. 15. $15.
Peripatetic Nashville local Josh Rouse has a voice like crushed vintage velvet drizzled with an expensive mixture of melted milk chocolate, endangered bees' honey, and the juice of a single raspberry grown in a biosphere in the Ukraine, so I'm a little perplexed that he starts off 1972, his fine fourth album, with such a leaden indication of setting. "She was feeling 1972, grooving to a Carole King tune," he sings over a finger-snapping high-hat pattern and a ripple of Polaroid piano, introducing this concept disc about the year Rouse was born and the provenance of most of his favorite records (Let's Stay Together, Exile on Main Street, maybe even The Divine Miss M). It's such an unsubtle way to open such a subtle record, one where Rouse shines up and slows down his previously roots-dependent folk-pop and allows shoulder-shrug bass lines, sea-spray flute runs, and hot-chocolate guitar leads to color his modest story poems, which follow everyday folks through problems Rouse never allows to overwhelm them. Crucially, for this kind of project, the guy's sense of detail is unflappable: "Love Vibration" bounces along on an organ pulse that redeems the goofy call-and-response chorus; "James" features taut disco strings and a "Low Rider" groove Carole King'd be lucky to muster; James Nixon's Actual Black Person backup vocal in "Sparrows Over Birmingham" imports a touch of gospel grace. Rouse ends 1972 more appropriately: "Catch the last ride on a Brooklyn train/Meet me on the corner and I'll entertain." MIKAEL WOOD
Josh Rouse plays Chop Suey at 8 p.m. Wed., Nov. 12. $12 adv.