AMERICAN GOTH: It's easy to forget that Ministry began life as a cheesy synth-pop duo, but the fact remains that the band's first album, 1983's With Sympathy (Arista), had more in common with Depeche Mode and the Thompson Twins than Laibach and Throbbing Gristle. But say what you want about Paul Barker and head honcho Al Jourgensen (many, for example, have dismissed him as mere poseur--way too over the top to be as eeevil as he purported himself to be), who abandoned the Casio and discovered the jackhammer at a crucial time. Once he decided that he was a badass, he churned out some of the most listenable industrial dance music ever released.

If you have doubts, go dig up your goth buddy's dusty copies of The Land of Rape and Honey (1988), The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste (1989), and the slightly lesser Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs (1992, all on Sire). This trio of albums made it safe to listen to the clash of tribal rhythms, grinding guitars, growling vocals, and pure dissonant noise in the comfort of your living room, as well as on the strobe-lit dance floor.

But with 1995's Filth Pig (Sire) and 1999's The Dark Side of the Spoon (Warner Bros.), the golden era was over. Where the band once appealed to metal kids, goth monkeys, and the "alterna-nation" simultaneously, no one was interested in listening to a plodding, muddy cover of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" (from Filth Pig), which just might be the worst version of a Dylan song ever recorded. (And no, we haven't forgotten about either Phil Collins' or Walter Cronkite's version of "The Times They Are A-Changin.'") It was junkie rock of the worst kind (read: unlistenable), and just when it looked like the band had become a horrible parody of itself, Ministry furthered the argument by making an appearance as the house band at the Flesh Fair in the Steven Spielberg crapfest A.I.

There's some good news, then, for those who wondered what the hell happened: The band's latest album, Animositisomina (2003, Sanctuary), its first in four years, is the album Ministry fans have been awaiting for more than a decade. No, really. Opener "Animosity" sounds like the Ministry of old, all staccato guitar chunks and growling vocals, while "Shove" approximates what Joy Division might have sounded like if they'd grown up on, well, Ministry. And Jourgensen and Barker give up a few pretenses to reveal there's a heart beating in those chests after all, with their fairly reverent cover of Magazine's "The Light Pours Out of Me."

If they're lucky, the fans will still care.

Ministry performs with Nothingface and Lollipop Lust Kill at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 28, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $24 at the Rialto Box Office and all Zia Record Exchange locations. They'll be $26 on the day of the show. For more information call 740-1000.

SNATCHED UP: It's tough to take a female duo called Evil Beaver, whose albums are titled Lick It (2001, Johann's Face) and Pleased to Eat You (to be released later this year), too seriously, which is just how singer/bassist Evie Evil and drummer Laura Ann Beaver want it. But playing the camp card doesn't have to mean these ladies can't rock--they do in spades. While they're oddly often compared to AC/DC, the bush-dwelling critters come off more like L7, if they had managed to earn that diploma from Melody University. And they certainly know how to get the maximum sound from mere bass and drums as well as anyone since godheadsilo.

Also appearing on the bill are Duane Peters and the Hunns--Peters is the former singer of U.S. Bombs, and ex-Nashville Pussy bassist Corey Parks is a Hunn--and Tucson's own The 440s, who are currently prepping a new split CD with the Squareheads.

Duane Peters and the Hunns, Evil Beaver, and The 440s perform at 9 p.m. on Friday, March 28, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission is $6. Questions? Ring 'em up at 622-8848.

SWAMP GAS: After listening to their third CD, House of the Dying Sun (2002, Golarwash), I'm pretty damn sure that Santeria didn't get their name from a Sublime song. The Lousiana-based five-piece instead rock the psychedelic, stoner swamp-boogie vibe like a less-heavy Monster Magnet with a Southern accent.

It works more often than not, but a song like "Daddy's Bad Girl" is just the maudlin tripe you'd expect from the title--and it actually features a character called "Frown Clown Man." Blech. (Come to think of it, can we just put a ban on songs about innocent girls who move to Hollywood to make it big, then get chewed up and spit out by the system? It wasn't cool when Bon Jovi released "Runaway" back in 1984, and it's only gotten less cool since.) Did I mention it works more often than not?

Santeria performs with Tucson's Sun Zoom Spark at 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 30, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. For further details call 622-3535.

SQUEEZED OUT: The twisted, Jack-sluggin', hip-hop-lovin' mofos of Cum & Go celebrate the release of their first CD, Straight Pumpin, with a gig opening for Morgan City General's David Huckfelt and Ben Ramsey this week. The Teddy Morgan-produced disc (how hard can it be to record a Casio and vocals?) features all your favorite Cum & Go hits, like the worst-waitress-in-the-world cautionary tale "Denny's," and the greatest ode to spooning since the Moldy Peaches' "Nothing Came Out." It's not nearly as much fun as seeing the C&G live, but then, besides self-mutilation, what is? Keep an eye peeled to The Weekly for the upcoming "definitive" interview with Steven Dynasty and Chuck Hollywood.

Until then, check out Cum & Go, along with Huckfelt and Ramsey, at 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 27, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. That number again is 622-3535.

ON THE BANDWAGON: I have to admit I still haven't heard last year's debut album from Iron and Wine, The Creek Drank the Cradle (Sub Pop, apparently too cheap to send proper promo materials), but positive word-of-mouth and critical kudos will help me find my way to his Tucson performance this week (Iron and Wine is the performing name for Florida's Sam Beam). Accompanied by an acoustic, a bit of slide, and the occasional banjo, Beam's American Gothic tales have been mentioned in the same breath as Elliot Smith, Sebadoh's Lou Barlow, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen and Will Oldham.

Iron and Wine performs, following a set by Norfolk & Western, at 9 p.m., on Thursday, March 27, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission is $6 and all ages are welcome. Call 884-0874 for more info.

Featuring locals AmoChip Dabney (keyboards, saxophones, vocals), Mary Redhouse (vocals and bass), Will Clipman (drums), and, of course, five-time GRAMMY-nominated flute virtuoso R. Carlos Nakai, the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet performs a rare local concert this week for "an evening of earthy and ethereal global groove music," according to the press kit.

The R. Carlos Nakai Quartet will perform at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, at the Proscenium Theater at the Pima Community College Center for the Arts, 2202 W. Anklam Road. Advance tickets are available for $17, or $15 for students and seniors, at the Center for the Arts Box Office and Hear's Music, or by calling 206-6988.

Reminiscent of singer/songwriters like Ron Sexsmith, Rufus Wainwright (minus the melodrama) and eels' frontman Mark Everett, San Francisco's Michael Zapruder has crafted This Is a Beautiful Town (2002, Explorable Oriole), an intimate collection of minor-key ballads that would make a perfect soundtrack for a fireplace-and-hot-chocolate kind of night, if such a thing existed around these parts.

Michael Zapruder performs, following an opening set from John Vecchiarelli at 9:30 p.m., on Tuesday, April 1, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. For more information call 798-1298.

Beautifully twisted San Francisco noiseniks Caroliner, who have been compared to the likes of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Mr. Bungle, and Sun City Girls, incorporate Technicolor performance art into their live shows, which are said to be stunning. No mere novices, the band has been at it for more than 20 years now. Tourmates Wolf Eyes forgo traditional song structures for electronic soundscape-trickery.

Both bands appear at 9 p.m. on Monday, March 31, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission to the all-ages show is $6. For details call 884-0874.

And, finally, fans of Michael Hedges will find much to like in the fret-dancing of Tucson's Brad Richter. Richter, a 1999 National Finger-picking Champion, has just released A Whisper in the Desert (Acoustic Music), a collection of classical guitar-meets-Windham Hill original compositions.

Brad Richter performs a CD release party at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, at St. Phillips in the Hills Recital Hall, 4440 N. Campbell. Advance tickets are available for $15, $12 for students and Tucson Guitar Society members, or $5 for children 12 and under, at Hear's Music.

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