Graceland at 8 p.m.
Mon., April 19, with Six Select, Ms. Led, and the Lashes. $5.
Elizabeth Elmore is a perpetual homina-homina-homina crush of the Makeoutclub.com set, but for all the right reasons. Two years ago, the diminutive, outspoken ex-Sarge frontlady took leave from law school at Northwestern (guess where she stands on illegal downloading?) for a decidedly less lucrative career path, wringing brainy eviscerations out of her new indie-rawk quartet, the Reputation. The first half of their sophomore release, To Force a Fate (Lookout!), flaunts Elmore's muscular—if occasionally formulaic—power-pop chops: Distorted, palm-muted verses spring into shout-it-out-loud power-chord parties, and the crowd goes wild. But like her predecessors in Throwing Muses and Belly, Elmore's sugar-rush vocals merely sweeten dour, pointed, often fictionalized relation-shit requiems. "I'm not the only one who's running from the truth," she growls in "Bottle Rocket Battles," before candying it up big time on the chorus ("It was once before you noticed and twice before I cared/Three times and we've both had it for the year"). The riff-happy "Let This Rest" and "Face It" are the more infectious of the Reputation's not-quite-ready-for-prime-time players; their power is derived from the unlikeliest of rhythm sections, Deftones doppelgänger drummer Steve Van Horn and lanky bassist Joel Root, who always looks juuuust north of projectile vomiting onstage. The happily unhip collective—completed by hulking guitarist Sean Hulet—executes a few surprisingly chameleonic flourishes, applying orchestral grandeur to Elmore's riot gear in "The Ugliness Kicking Around," an epic healing ballad rife with morose piano sweeps. Big shock that after all this kicking, screaming, and mutating, Fate ends with a complementary lullaby called "Bone Tired." ANDREW BONAZELLI
Sunset Tavern at 9 p.m.
Thurs., April 15, with the DTs and Honky K.O. $6.
Leave the scientific properties of sweat to the Ph.D.'s: eccrine glands, metabolism, and lubricants cooling the system. Instead, consider the philosophical properties of sweat. When you're passionate about something, you exude it. Rock and rollers know a thing or two about lubrication (scientific or social). Perspiration is for sissies. Minneapolis-based rockers Midnight Evils sweat diesel, Jägermeister, motor oil, and pavement. Their homonymous 2002 disc was even recorded in an old diesel-truck repair shop. Last year's Straight 'Til Morning, released on Estrus Records, home to other seemingly caustic bands like the Immortal Lee County Killers and the Mistreaters (really, they're harmless), splinters like stepping over a broken beer bottle with bare feet. Shaking behind Jonny Evans' 16-horsepower scream and squelching power chords, the record beckons, "What's a pretty girl like you doing in a dive like this?" An appropriate response, perhaps: "WHAT? I can't hear you! It's too loud!" Despite tracks like "Ain't Got Time for Love" and "Loaded and Lonely," Straight 'Til Morning is as much of a come-on as it is a fat-lipped kiss-off, thinly veiled behind a scrap of torn flannel: Misery loves company, and everybody needs somebody to slug shots with. KATE SILVER
Sunset Tavern at 9 p.m.
Fri., April 16, with Swords Project and Dolorean. $7.
Calling Manta Ray "Spain's answer to Kinski" would be unfair to both bands. Inaccurate, too—Manta Ray have recourse to vocals far more often than their semicounterparts here. Plus, the Spanish quartet relies less on extended compositions and extreme dynamics than Kinski. Sure, they both harness the harmonic torrents first unleashed by the likes of Glenn Branca and Sonic Youth. Sure, both offer new uses for guitar without venturing out from under the "rock" rubric. Both rock flat-out, too. But they do it differently. On Estratexa (FILMguerro), Manta Ray are less psychedelically inclined than Kinski, and far more modular, except when they jump conceptual ship, as on "Another Man." Midway through the snappy bump-and-grinder, guitarist Jose Garcia surges into rapid-fire overtone waves, then bursts into a feedback-enriched freak-out finale that would do anyone who ever played Terrastock proud. Garcia and company never leave the strobes on for long—even the ostensibly epic "Another Man" clocks in at under seven minutes. Their sprints through the unknown tend to be subtle, too—the oddly syncopated trills on "Qué Niño Soy" can passed unnoticed for a few listens before you find yourself thinking, "Wait—I've never heard anyone do that before," a thought you find yourself having pretty often through the course of Estratexa. Unfortunately, as with Kinski's Chris Martin, Garcia's vocal melodies aren't nearly as original as his playing, nor is the way he sings. But there's nothing wrong with either: If you're going to emulate anyone, Alan Vega and the Young Gods' Franz Treichler make a far better composite role model than, say, Lita Ford and Chingy. ROD SMITH