CHIN UP: There may not be a whole lot of recognizable names among the lot of bands hitting town this week, but never you mind that; there's a bunch of good shows, so let's get right to it --

Meg Lee Chin's résumé boasts a stint with anarcho-industrial combo Pigface. That band's leader, Martin Atkins (who has also worked with Public Image Ltd., Ministry and Killing Joke), helped out with production and writing duties on Meg's debut album, last year's Piece and Love (Invisible), as well as the follow-up remix EP, Junkies and Snakes (Invisible). Both document a performer on the verge of, well, something.

While it's probably safe to say that fans of Garbage will find much to like here, that's selling her short. Chin borrows influences from everywhere; typically, a machine-propelled beat supports an electro-pop aesthetic that boasts hip-hop-meets-spoken-word-meets-trad-singer/songwriter vocals, all of it washed over in a tide of industrial noise studio fuckery. Best of all, there are actual songs--catchy ones, even!--amid the mishmash. Chin seems to thrive in contradictions, all hook-riddled noise, world-weary innocence and organic industrialism.

She's obviously learned a lot in her Pigface stint, but she keeps an eye to the past too, celebrating trailblazers like Allen Ginsberg along the way (her "Nutopia" borrows the form of his Howl, updating it for the 21st century with lines like "I saw the best minds of my generation running on empty / superglued to the TV / dreaming of prosperity / talking incessantly / saying nothing / sleeping on platforms at train stations / sipping chemical cocktails / alive to the universe, dead to the world"). Amazingly, she pulls it off with only a trace of pretentiousness.

Local hip-hop/funk crew Mankind stole the show at last November's Great Cover-Up with their set of N.W.A. chestnuts, and their live set of originals is no less inspiring. With a stellar lineup of funk musicians behind 'em, the two rapping frontmen have charisma to spare and infectious tunes to boot. Every performance is a feelgood lesson in positivity, and the crowds are slowly figuring that out--the group totes a rabid fan base to every show it plays, and no one goes home without a smile plastered to their face. We'd love 'em even if they were ugly.

Witness Meg Lee Chin and Mankind when they take the stage of Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave., at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21. Cover is $6. For more information call 884-0874.

LADY LUCK: Come to think of it, the bulk of shows worth checking out this week are headlined by women; other estrogen-heavy shows to keep in mind:

After doing time as a major-label slave on Atlantic, Melissa Ferrick released last year's appropriately titled Freedom on artist-friendly indie What Are Records? With a mere $5,000 budget and help from only one other person--bassist and co-producer Marika Tjelios--Ferrick has crafted an immediate and personal collection of songs recorded on digital four-track that seems to jump from the speakers in an I'm-just-sitting-here-playing-my-songs-for-ya fashion. I'll take Ferrick's modern-day folkie musings over Ani's annoying heavy-handedness any day of the week.

Ferrick performs in the middle slot (she insists on playing early) between opener Angela Dipaolo and closer Stella on Wednesday, March 21 at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. Things should kick off around 8:30 p.m., and you can call 670-9202 for further details.

Even more impressive is 19-year-old South Carolinan Tami Hart's debut, No Light Until August, released last year on lesbian-friendly Mr. Lady Records (best known as the home of Kathleen Hanna's Le Tigre). Hart falls squarely into the singer/songwriter camp, but her songs are also deceptively poppy, dark ruminations on mega-personal affairs of the heart. Album opener "Drunken Love Songs" pleads, "In the back seat of my car, I will give my love to you / If you leave me tonight I'll just drink until I die," and in the process, sets the tone for the rest of the disc. Hart's voice is simply gorgeous, and suits the upbeat melancholy of the tunes here to a tee. Recommended, even if you think you don't like this kind of stuff.

Tami Hart arrives at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave., along with Mr. Lady label-mate The Haggard and local Elijah, at 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 15. Cover is $5, and you can call 884-0874 for more 411.

KIDDING AROUND: The cover of Seventeen's X Off Records debut, Bikini Pie Fight, features three scantily clad cuties covered in pie. If you find that clever, you'll no doubt appreciate the music that lies within. While the press kit boasts comparisons to Ween, Queens of the Stone Age, Fu Manchu and Green Day, to these ears it sounds more like the unremarkable disposo-pop/punk we've all grown jadedly accustomed to over the years.

Catchy? Occasionally. Sophomoric? Check. Funny? I'll bet they think so. A sample of song titles should clue you into the band's sense of humor: "Porno Getaway," "Big Gay Friend" and "Mountains, Literally Mountains, of Coke" would all hold up a lot better if these guys were pre-pubescent; sadly, they're not.

Seventeen hits the Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 15. Call 670-9332 for details.

BUY IT? The Union Underground's Portrait Records debut, An Education in Rebellion, is exactly that. The problem is that, in today's marketplace, rebellion is pre-packaged and mass-marketed. If songs that recall an unholy union of Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains and a touch of psuedo-industrial noise, with requisite superfluous "fuck"s and bong hit samples played by four guys who are trying waaaay too hard to be cool are your cup of meat, these guys are out for your dollar. It kinda reminds me of the kid in school who wears a Pokemon shirt to school, only to be informed by his classmates that Pokemon is, like, so 2000.

The Union Underground headlines a show that also features Dust for Life, Slaves on Dope and Spike 1000, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 15 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. For details call 798-3333.