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In the clubs 

Ageless rock wonders Sonic Youth (pictured) are back with new material off their recent release, Murray Street. After the band alienated some fans with avant-garde noodling on their last few albums, most fans appear to be enjoying Sonic Youth's newest work, which blends their freestyle guitar work with the pop structures that made their older material so accessible. Some people are hailing Murray Street as the group's best album since the classic Daydream Nation. Even in their old age, Sonic Youth are still one of the most challenging and engaging live bands around. Catch them Wednesday, Aug. 7 at The Ritz in Raleigh. Call 967-9053 for details.DiamondDiamondDiamond

The Paper Chase are an amalgam of chaotic elements that should never be released near an open flame. Combining piano, unstructured screeching guitar, volatile vocals and samples, their multi-layered attack is a beautiful mess indeed. Do not file under easy listening. See them Wednesday, July 31 at Carrboro's Go! Room 4. Call 969-1400 for details. --Brendan FerriterDiamondDiamondDiamond

Mikey Dread (pictured) is truly one of the most influential reggae artists and producers ever. In the mid-'70s he created a revolutionary reggae radio show called Dread at the Controls. His bass-heavy dub mixes and politically charged "sufferation" tunes soon made Dread a hero to many people in Jamaica. He was the first DJ who played their music, talked like them, and provided an outlet for the exploding musical talent on the island. In just a few years, he conquered the airwaves of Jamaica and was voted Radio Personality of the Year in 1979. His subsequent success as a producer and performer eventually landed him an opening slot on the Clash's 1980 British tour. This association led Dread to produce the Clash's genre-bending single "Bankrobber" and much of the now classic material on Black Market Clash and Sandanista!. Dread later mixed UB40's international hit "Red, Red Wine." He has continued to successfully release his own solo material on labels such as Heartbeat, RAS and Rykodisc. Dread's latest album, Rasta in Control, will be released later this year, but for now, he's bringing his U.S. tour to the Cat's Cradle this Saturday, Aug. 3. The legendary sound engineer, "Scientist," is also on the bill, along with local favorites Jah Daniel & the Lions Den Band, and the talented selectors from Roots International and Black Lion Sound. Call 967-9053 for details. —James "Ras J" McGurkDiamondDiamondDiamond

Say what you want about tribute albums, they do occasionally hip you to a band that has thus far flown under the radar. Such was the case with the Mary Janes, an Indiana-based group that I first caught doing "I'm Not Ready Yet" on the excellent Tom T. Hall tribute, Real. The Mary Janes have since shown up on albums honoring Michael Nesmith and John Fogerty, and just last week a collection titled The Stiff Generation appeared in the mailbox, with a version of Elvis Costello's "Alison" by the Mary Janes serving as its stunning centerpiece. A striking vocal turn from band leader Janas Hoyt has become a given, but less expected was her wonderfully warm guitar on the cut, like Wes Montgomery crashing a country-soul session. Of course, the Mary Janes have plenty of their own first-rate songs, as showcased on their two releases, '98's Record No. 1 and last year's alternately elegant and gritty Flame. You can experience the string-heavy chamber roots sound of the Mary Janes at Bully's Basement on Saturday, Aug. 3, with beatnik cowboy Rob McNurlin and local rootsy rockers Memphis joining them on the bill. Call 286-7272 for details. --Rick Cornell

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