The Showbox at 8 p.m.
Sat., May 7, with Bright Eyes. $25 adv.
After seven years as hardworking indie changelings, N.Y.C.-via-Omaha dance punks the Faint have already embraced and discarded more styles than most of the bands on your iPod put together. With their fifth release, the after-party cool Wet From Birth (Saddle Creek), the Faint have parlayed their fashion fast-forward work ethic into a royal flush of au courant trends, from vintage '80s stage wear to dizzy light shows to analog-synth fetishes. Problem is, every time the Faint try to cash in, someone else cuts them off. The Killers have stolen their eyeliner pencils. Alicia Keys' "Karma" is riding a swooping classical strings loop (the most inspired idea on Wet From Birth) to the top of the charts. And the Bravery have just been voted Most Likely to Inspire an "'80s Are Back" Backlash that could halt the Faint's career faster that you can say, "It was an honest mistake." Undaunted, the Faint have kept touring since the release of Wet From Birth last fall, extending the shelf life of the album's standout tracks. "Desperate Guys" wraps a violin recital loop around a creepy beat, while singer Todd Baechle stutters behind the merch table. "Drop Kick the Punks" turns up the guitars like 13-era Blur tearing through their token rock number. "Southern Belles in London Sing" channels its ennui into the record's catchiest chorus. Until they knock Brandon Flowers off magazine covers or bounce the Bravery out of the buzz bin, hopefully the Faint can hear "your style is great, your songs are strong, but your timing is way off" as a compliment. CHRIS LORRAINE
Chop Suey at 5:30 p.m.
Sun., May 8. $12 adv. All ages.
Mr. Lif's 2002 album I, Phantom teetered on the verge of excellence. Akrobatic's Balance, from the following year, showed potential. Now, these Boston MCs have come into their own—together. On Black Dialogue (Definitive Jux), the two mesh like no indie-rap duo since Black Star. They're not quotably profound; instead, they modernize that old rock- rocking-it nonstopping-it ish. Lif (skinny guy; big dreads) has occasionally squeaky, Q-Tip-esque intonation; Akrobatik (big guy; skinny dreads) has authoritative flow like Jeru the Damaja, only less fun-hating. Both turn on a dime like they got four-wheel drive (though Lif's rapid-fire/drawn-out cadence shifts are slipperier than Akro's bum's rush). Like most indie-rap luminaries, they can sometimes lose sight of their ability to preach without perpetrating buzz kills; you can agree with the sentiment of the antiwar "Memorial Day" (Akrobatik: "I feel I'm bein' tricked even worse than the civilians/Nobody ever told me that we would be killin' children") yet still cringe a little at its didactic earnestness. But the record sneaks those moments in under a scorched-earth club-banger approach, augmented by the serviceable cuts of DJ Fakts One: Leadoff "Let's Move!!" requires a couple more exclamation points in the title to adequately denote the whonk of its Robotech drum-line beat, El-P's obligatory production jobs provide surprisingly upbeat Whodini-does-Station to Station funk ("People 4 Prez") and light-saber-clash microgrime ("Blo"), while "Party Hard" (featuring a nonchalant Guru cameo) is a blatant play for chart dap that rarely gets more lyrically complex than your classic b-boy stance riding. Turns out backpacks have lots of room for cold ones. NATE PATRIN
Chop Suey at 9 p.m.
Mon., May 9. $10 adv.
Unless Laetita Sadier is out to prove that she no longer needs longtime collaborator and ex-husband Tim Gane to sound like their band Stereolab, it's difficult to discern the value of her side project. As with Stereolab's recent output, Monade's new A Few Steps More (Too Pure) is a collection of pleasant imitations of Sadier's earlier, catchier work. Whereas classic Stereolab records like 1993's Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements and 1996's Emperor Tomato Ketchup expanded the band's basic stylistic elements—lounge, drone, and bubblegum pop—with skewed funk and raw urgency, A Few Steps More seems forced. It's full of dynamic shifts, but never feels particularly dynamic. Even its most interesting moments—the verses on "La Salle des Pas Perdus," the middle section of "Sensible et Extensible," the finale of "Pas Toujours; Encore"—float by in an indistinct haze. Is this due to fussy, sterile production? Or does the band simply lack enthusiasm for the material? Sadier sounds bored when she sings, and who can blame her—she's been recycling these melodies for over a decade. Maybe she's more interested in the subtleties of her craft and hears a world of change in the most minute of details. But any casual listener will be hard-pressed to care. MATTHEW PERPETUA