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The only thing scarier than the grating delivery of Jean Smith’s accusations is knowing that I used to be able to listen to one Mecca Normal album straight through. Backed by the fairly nondescript sounds of guitarist David Lester and drummer Charlie Quintana, Smith warbles, howls, and screeches her way through another album, the unfashionably titled Who Shot Elvis? Smith & Co. have strayed from the minimalist recipe of controlled voice and distorted guitar duets on 1988’s Calico Kills the Cat to a folkier sound. Mecca Normal is still in your face, but mostly about the fact that it’s avant-garde, having fallen into a chasm of self-parody and folk-punk-by-numbers that’s not just tiring, it’s tired. But, D.C.’s promising Laconic Chamber employs a palette that includes violin and accordion. The quartet’s moody pieces unfold like modernized chamber music, while vocalist Dorothy delivers her anxieties in constrained
patterns, suggesting repression rather than self-control. At 8:30 p.m. at the Black Cat, 1831 14th St. NW. $5. (202) 667-7960. (John Dugan)