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No, she's not that good. But at least she's mining the right sources.
-- Steven Almond
Patti Rothberg opens for Primitive Radio Gods Monday, October 28, at the Hard Rock Cafe, 401 Biscayne Blvd; 377-3110. Showtime is 10:00. Admission is free.

Scud Mountain Boys
Massachusetts
(Sub Pop))

When this Triple-A styled country quartet's debut for Sub Pop was released earlier this year, I missed it. I heard it, but I didn't really hear it. It spoke too quietly: Compared to the raucous barrelhouse stomp of the Bottle Rockets, the evocative honky-pop of Wilco, and the plaintive ache and raw emotion of Son Volt, the Scuds' hushed vocals and relentless downer vibe seemed a pretentious take on country's infatuation with torment and melancholy.

Still, something kept pulling me back to Massachusetts, and now, too many months after its release, I hear it: The downer vibe has the natural feel of real life, and those hushed vocals make perfect sense after discerning the lyrics, which chronicle the lives of heartbreak stoners, alcoholics, and other broken-down casualties of tormented, melancholic life. Joe Pernice sings like a whipped dog, barely audible on the suicide lament "In a Ditch," and soaked in regret on "Grudge ****," a late-night call to a lost love. His defeatist moan on "Big Hole" and "Penthouse in the Woods" is undercut by Bruce Tull's gorgeous lap and pedal steel guitar, and the band conjures an effective kind of rocking honky-tonk choog on both "Cigarette Sandwich" (a song as funny as its title) and "Lift Me Up," a drinking song that defines perfectly this band's singular brand of rural pathos.

-- John Floyd

Fun People
Kum Kum
(Frost Bite)

Never knew there was such a thing as Argentinean hardcore? Me neither, but Fun People serves notice that you don't have to put brown contacts on Madonna to hear the new Argentina. The Buenos Aires quartet has released two full-length records on Frost Bite, one of their country's biggest indie labels. The band's first release, Anesthesia, was full of hard-hitting, upbeat tunes that registered on the metal end of the hardcore spectrum. The lyrics, many in English, offered intriguing glimpses into the political consciousness (and passable English) of Argentina's youth -- or at least those who, like singer Nekro, wear blond dreadlocks and know who GG Allin is.

Kum Kum shows the band mixing some morsels of melodic experimentation with the usual hardcore formula of double-time yelling and midtempo chanting. The result is, well, mixed. "Mother Earth," with its bouncy guitar hook, is an enjoyable nod to whoa-whoa pop punk. Several tunes feature off-time beats and horn sections, hinting at Voodoo Glow Skulls or maybe Fishbone. "In the World of Hate" starts of as a ballsy rant, then breaks down into Nekro doing his best Roy Orbison impression. "Sabado" is strummy, clean-guitar, finger-snapping Fifties pop that Ritchie Valens would have liked.

Some of these ventures work, especially "Easy to Come" and the stirring "Rebel Pose." Others fall flat, especially the ones where the band drops back and Nekro's tenuous command of English pronunciation is glaring ("Bad Man" will make you squirm). The best stuff on Kum Kum is the hard stuff. "Kops" shows off some super-heavy playing from the three-piece band and some really excellent snarling from Nekro; "Sometimes" is a blistering pit anthem.

Like many bands that admire Anglo music from afar, Fun People does some inappropriate and jarring genre bending. Still, the hardcore highlights of Kum Kum hold up just fine next to their U.S. and U.K. counterparts.

-- Ted B. Kissell
Fun People performs Sunday, October 27, at Cheers, 2490 SW 17th Ave; 857-0041. The all-ages show begins at 8:00. Admission is $5.

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