Margot and the Nuclear So and So's<.b>
To say the latest version of Margot and the Nuclear So and So's is more straightforward belies the band's central nature, even as it captures its constant changes. Between the just-released Buzzard and 2008's Animal!/Not Animal, Margot shifted gears. Frontman Richard Edwards moved his group from Indianapolis to Chicago, shedding a few members along the way. Also gone are some of Margot's signature elements, including many of the instruments that gave them their sweep and depth. Still, Edwards' vision has always married immediacy with grandeur, and the loss of half an orchestra section won't stand in his way. The thing that makes Margot and the Nuclear So and So's such a dynamic band is not that it includes so many elements, but the way those elements are fleshed out. A sideways sensibility allows Edwards to fuse dreamy, almost haunting moods with bouncy, quirky pop in ways that detract from neither. The new band should be both more forceful and more staid onstage, thanks to the rearranged lineup and instrumentation. Margot's music has always been about transformation and progression. The band is merely following suit these days. — Nicholas Hall
Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, with the Lonely Forest, Cameron McGill & What Army, and Bethesda. 8 p.m. Friday, September 24. Musica. Tickets: $12; call 330-374-1114 or visit ticketweb.com.
When Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones got together in the early '60s, they rallied around their love of authentic Chicago blues, which in turn inspired them to name their band after a Muddy Waters song and record at the legendary Chess studios. Austin's Strange Boys don't have that kind of historical lineage, but they sure play vintage garage blues and R&B like they do. The Strange Boys' latest album, Be Brave, is a reeling, drunken combination of early-blues tribute, R&B stomp, crossroads country lilt, and Replacements-inspired reinvention — a low-fi triumph that bops its head in respect to the '60s shadows of the Stones and Kinks, with a nod and a wink in the direction of Jack White. Raw, immediate, and visceral, the Strange Boys aren't doing anything particularly groundbreaking. And they aren't typical of the bands coming out of the Texas capital. But give them half a chance and they'll kick your garage-loving ass up between your well-abused ears. — Brian Baker
Strange Boys, with Gentleman Jesse & His Men, Natural Child, and the Wooly Bullies. 9 p.m. Friday, September 24. Now That's Class. Tickets: $8; call 216-221-8576 or go to nowthatsclass.net.
Does Holy Fuck's moniker follow the Smucker's paradigm that something this horribly named has to be good? Of course not. The Ontario electro-space pop quartet could quite easily suck rusty circuits. But they don't. On their latest album, Latin, Holy Fuck plug all of electronica's permutations into a three-pronged outlet — from Brian Eno's ambient wash to the Units' populist New Wave to Hawkwind's escape velocity. Not many synth-based bands can reference Men Without Hats, Yes, Metal Machine Music, Devo, and beat-happy space funk within minutes (and sometimes measures) of each other, which makes Holy Fuck a knob-twiddling, keyboard-stabbing, spine-wrenching cult of one. They score extra points for kicking it old-school, with analog synths, toy keyboards, a film synchronizer, and no backing tracks, laptops, or programmed loops. Forget the hypnotic, trance-inducing chill of what passes for most modern electronic music. Holy Fuck are the real deal, providing both ear-bending squiggles and fist-pumping anthems. — Baker
Holy Fuck, with Indian Jewelry and Teengirl Fantasy. 9 p.m. Saturday, September 25. Grog Shop. Tickets: $14, $12 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.
Their name may be a nod to Jim Henson's scat-singing Muppets from back in the day. Or maybe not. Whatever. Just know that if you're looking for that kind of playful whimsy in music, this Portland, Oregon trio scratch that itch. The trippy, experimental indie rockers' recently released fourth album, Mines, could be their best. Menomena made much of their 2003 debut, I Am the Fun Blame Monster!, with a computer program member Brent Knopf created called Deeler, which also serves as a jumping-off point for Mines, a natural-sounding extension of 2007's Friend and Foe. But it's also a far less conscious record. Songs like "Taos," "Five Little Rooms," and "Queen Black Acid" seem more interested in gradually drawing in listeners than offering the ceremonial head-drubbing found in many of the band's older songs. Just don't mistake accessibility for a stab at mainstream acceptance: Menomena are still eccentric and wildly imaginative. With swirling strains of Moog and saxophone enveloping your head with pure psychedelic phases, you get the feeling Menomena could have influenced Henson to create a whole new batch of nonsense-spouting Muppets. — Peter Chakerian
Menomena, with Suckers and Tu Fawning. 8:30 p.m. Monday, September 27. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $15; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
Zee Avi’s voice is gentle and sweetly beguiling. The jazzy, breathy tones tiptoe in like the smell of spring through an open window and throw themselves into your bed with lighthearted indifference. The arrangements on last year’s self-titled debut are tastefully simple, often featuring little more than Avi’s acoustic guitar or ukulele, the latter of which gives songs like “Bitter Heart” a sunny, whimsical swing. But Avi is more than just a pretty voice. Her lyrics betray quirky charm and quick wit, like when she gives a shout-out to German expressionism in “Poppy.” The discovery of the Malaysia-born Avi is a testament to the interconnected nature of our post-millennial world. After studying fashion design in London, she returned to Malaysia and began playing gigs. When a friend couldn’t make a show, she posted a video of the performance on YouTube, and, encouraged by the feedback, continued to post until she was inundated with recording contracts. She eventually signed with Jack Johnson’s label — which is appropriate, seeing how Avi’s voice features a similar effortless intimacy. — Chris Parker
Zee Avi, with Rebekah Jean and Nick Zuber Band. 9 p.m. Friday, September 24. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $8; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.