QUADRATIC EQUATION: Seen anyone wearing a black T-shirt with a pentagram on it around town lately? If said pentagram-flaunter had traces of goat's blood on 'em, chances are you'd be better off paying him or her no mind. If, however, the word Quadratics appeared above the pentagram, either this person was a Satan-worshipping math geek or a fan of the local band Quadratics. If the former is the case, again, I'd advise against eye contact. If the latter is the case, though, you'd do yourself a favor to align yourself with this person. Why? Because chances are, s/he has better taste in music than you.

Quadratics (not to be confused with The Quadratics, so don't go looking on for their stuff like I did) consists of singer/guitarist Matt Lewon, drummer Andrew Skikne and new bassist Aaron Bonsall (who replaced the recently departed Lisa Fowele). In the band's press kit, its members profess to being influenced by "Radiohead, Slint, Shellac, Sonic Youth, June of 44 and gay pornography [not a band]." It's always a risky affair when bands list its influences in its press kit--usually bands sound exactly like one of the bands it lists, with the others tossed in for street cred--so I'm happy to report that Quadratics--for the most part--sound like none of the above.

The disc supplied to me has five older songs, released under the name Grey, as well as two new ones being distributed as a CD single. The Grey EP is enjoyable enough; hard without being pummeling, melodic without forsaking its hardness. "Blue Skies and Green Swimming Pools," an eight-and-a-half minute opus, sounds a bit like John Lennon fronting Radiohead with just a pinch of Middle Eastern flavor, but it's the anomaly. The rest of the tunes are decent enough, albeit similar sounding, riff-rockers that inform us that these guys grew up on '80s hardcore. All told, it sounds like the first recording by a band with good taste in music: nothing more, nothing less.

It's the two new songs that really shine though. "Righting Reflex" demonstrates the firm grasp the guys have developed on soft-'n'-pretty/loud-'n'-hard dynamics, while "Anti-Nothing" is the highlight here, aptly summarizing everything that's right about Quadratics: a galloping guitar backs a gorgeous melody that completely explodes when the chorus comes around, with the requisite tempo shift places innocuously mid-song. Haven't had the chance to see 'em live yet, but there's huge potential there.

Check them out when Quadratics plays at 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 31, at MacDaddy's, 500 N. Fourth Ave. Cover is cheap, and you can call the club with further questions at 792-6300.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: I've never been a big proponent of the idea of guilty pleasures: If you like something, you shouldn't be afraid to profess your allegiance. With that idea in mind, I hereby--OK, somewhat guiltily--announce that I'm a sucker for Southern rock bands of the '70s and '80s. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, the Allman Brothers, Ozark Mountain Daredevils--I confess, I dig 'em all. This week we're treated to a performance by a band that falls into this category, 38 Special.

For nearly 25 years now, 38 Special has appealed to the inner hesher in all of us, with their string of hook-filled, radio-friendly ass-kickers. To wit: "So Caught Up in You," "Rockin' Into the Night," "Hold on Loosely," and "Back Where You Belong" (OK, so I never cared for that one too much) filled the band's four platinum and five gold records, appealing as much to urban cowboys as they do Jack-drinkin' Camaro drivers. Featuring vocalist Donnie Van Zant, brother of Skynyrd's late Ronnie Van Zant, they're the ultimate Southern rock crossover band.

38 Special appears at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 29, at Backstage, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. For more information call 733-6262.

GIRL'S NIGHT OUT: You say you still haven't recovered from the cancellation of the Lilith Fair festival a few years back? Say hello to Seattle's Jill Cohn, who comes to town this week in support of her fourth release, the absence of Moving, on Boxobeanies Music. In addition to her apparent disdain for the rules of punctuation, Cohn touts a box full of songs that are truly a notch above your average DIY modern-day folk troubadour. She's been compared to all the usual suspects (Sarah, Tori, etc.), and she truly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as her compatriots. Get yourself a publicist, girl! Jill Cohn appears along with Tucson's own Gabrielle Pietrangelo at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4, at Epic Café, 745 N. Fourth Ave. Call 624-6844 for details.