Crocodile Cafe at 8 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 26, with Holly Golightly and KO and the Knockouts, $12 adv. 18-plus.
The Kills' VV likes to say the "F" word. She says it a lot on "Fuck the People," rolling the sharp word around in her mouth like a concealed weapon that she'd rather show off. She loses a little toughness with a reeling smoker's cough after opener "Superstition," in one of the many charming, chatty "tape's rolling" portions of the duo's new Keep on Your Mean Side (Rough Trade). In between, VVborn Alison Mosshart, formerly of Florida punks Discountshows off a rock swagger gleaned from constant touring and bootleg footage of Royal Trux. She and partner in life and tour van, Hotelné Jamie Hince, former member of London indie rockers Scarfomake a pretty caustic duo, throwing together a heap of cast-off guitar chords, fuzzy vocals, and hollow drum kicks, then lighting a bonfire with the kerosene blues of "Fried My Little Brains." "Pull a U" is less On the Road than a truck-stop juke-joint jam. His-and-hers vocals on "Kissy Kissy" intimately enter in for a lip lock. Hotel's guitar-as-bass gets down low, and VV's harmonies swoon, but she blows smoke in his face instead. VV likes to tease as much as taunt, and her giggles also trail closer "Monkey 23." Chances are you're probably still on her good side by album's end. And live, they could be the bastard children of John and Exenewhich makes them all the more real. KATE SILVER
THE FIRE THEFT
Graceland at 8 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 27, with LaGuardia. $15. All ages.
Don't call it a comebackor a reunion or a one-off or a side project. The self- titled CD by the Fire Theft, to be released later this month on Rykodisc, is a debut album by a new band. Sure, the band happens to include three of the four founding members of Sunny Day Real Estate. But they're not looking back, so why should we? Given Sunny Day's tumultuous past, any closer scrutiny of this latest project will cause the whole thing to tumble, house-of-cards style, onto the cold, dirty ground. Luckily, the Fire Theft has still got the chops to withstand the industry attention that the band's stature and soap opera story line have earned them. Even though guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Enigk, bassist Nate Mendel, and drummer William Goldsmith haven't performed together since 1995, the band members still sound like they can read each other's minds, trading Sunny Day's tightly coiled zig-zags for a looser, unrestrained sound derived more from classic rock. Bloggers who've spent years analyzing the willfully cryptic Enigk's lyrics may be surprised to hear that the Fire Theft aim for clarity. Broad-stroke power chords support such lyrics as "I thought that I was crazy/All along it was just a girl" and "Change all around us/Change in everything you see." Enigk's vocals still keen and careen, and the songs retain Sunny Day's searching spiritual ache, but the lyrical directness and affectionate nods to the Beach Boys and the Who reveal a group of musicians finding their voicejust what you'd expect from a new band touring behind its debut CD. CHRIS LORRAINE
Crocodile Cafe at 9 p.m.
Tues., Sept. 30, with Pedestrian, $12.50 adv./$15.
Acoustic mopers like Damien Rice are bullies, and of the peskiest sortinstead of bustin' straight outta Valhalla and power-chording you upside the sternum like honest louts, they impose their will by stealth, guilting you into accepting their standards of wan gorgeousosity, implicitly challenging you to prove yourself equal to their passion. Rice can create an air of pleasant melancholy when he exercises restraint, but when he doesn't . . . well, I can't say I expected the opera singer who swells up at the climax of "Eskimo," from Rice's debut, O (Vector), but let's just say I wasn't shocked. Fun fact: One advantage to writing lyrics for your heartbreak ballads (instead of murmuring repetitive la-la sounds, say) is that you can provide some revelatory context for what you feel rather than just emphatically insisting that you feel. But Rice isn't telling me anything Diane Warren already doesn't know with lines like "Love taught me to lie/Life taught me to die." Or "What I really need/Is what makes me bleed/Like a new disease." Or "Still a little bit of your taste in my mouth/Still a little bit of you laced with my doubt." OrOK, Damien, you know what? You win. There's a depth to your pain a hollow man such as I will never plumb, an ache to your voice that taps into the wellspring of human sorrow, a broken majesty to your love that's like unto a trillion fragile blades of grass cowering as one beneath the uncomprehending weight of the universe. Now couldja scamper off someplace else to brood? I'm watching Newlyweds. And take that damn cello player with you. KEITH HARRIS