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But while many artists might take a staunch political stance in their music, Perry says that Handsome Furs doesn't really strive to push a specific agenda. Instead, on songs like "Talking Hotel Arbat Blues," singer/guitarist (and Wolf Parade member) Dan Boeckner laments, "I don't know but I've been told, every little thing has been bought and sold" over a foundation of blues-based fury. The song draws from the same twentieth-century pop-music constructs that we've all come to accept and incorporate into our modern consumer-driven reality.

"We're just trying to comment on the experiences that we're having very personally," Perry says. "I don't have any political agenda myself. I don't really ascribe to any ideology in my life or in my work at all. But I do think that there is [something] lacking in a lot of the music that's being created right now. Especially within popular indie-rock music, [musicians aren't] talking about the world we're living in. I definitely want to do that." Shae Moseley
8 p.m. Monday, March 16. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. $10. 314-773-3363. The world wants to know: After giving away his last album online, what will Saul Williams do for an encore?

The 37-year-old poet, MC and rocker hasn't decided yet. But eighteen months after making The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust! available for free — and for five bucks to those who wanted a higher-quality copy — Williams is convinced of one thing: The experiment was a success, artistically as well as logistically.

That, Williams believes, is because Niggy — a collaboration with Trent Reznor — was thematically related to its revolutionary delivery system, shared by Radiohead and copied since by others.

"Niggy was supposed to initiate a discussion about freedom," explains Williams, via phone from a tour date at the University of North Carolina. "What is the cost of freedom? And then, to be able to deliver that idea in a way that circles around freedom — being that it is free! You can take it for free, if you want...it's been all blessing. It happened exactly as it should have."

Williams is still playing songs from the album, released in late 2007 (and now available through iTunes), and thinks it marked a major shift. "On Niggy, I was saying I had been standing in the way of my own growth. You have all these self-imposed definitions. Niggy Tardust was saying, I am all of those things, I am none of these things. I am myself."

Ever since his days reciting poetry at the Big Apple's Nuyorican Poets Café and in the film Slam, Williams has been deft at defying expectations, setting his words to backdrops provided by everyone from Rick Rubin to symphony orchestras.

So as one might guess, he says his next album, on which he's working with TV on the Radio's David Sitek, is "in a really different space than Niggy." Williams described it late last year as a "discussion of percussion," but at the moment he's not sure "how to characterize the sound of it. There's a lot of ways this album could be shaped right now."

How it will reach the masses is another open question. "There's so many things happening now. And I don't have anything against the idea of working with a label," he says. "At this point, I have no idea. I have to see how the songs shape up. The songs will decide it."— Dan LeRoy
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 17. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Boulevard. $25 in advance, $28 day of show. 314-726-6161. With more than 1,000 shows under its belt, the High Strung is one of the hardest-working bands in rock & roll today. It's the kind of group that has the chutzpah to donate its graffiti-riddled van to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but the bookish humility to perform a cross-country tour in public libraries. The band recently took a five-month break from its relentless tour schedule to return to Detroit and record two new albums, the first of which, Ode to the Inverse of the Dude, is due out April 24.

"When I'm not working, I feel tremendous guilt," admits singer/guitarist Josh Malerman, who was putting the finishing touches on an as-yet untitled side project minutes before we spoke. But guilt seems to be the least of his worries as he discusses the Woody Allen-levels of hyper-self-reflexivity involved in Ode.

"It's basically about neuroses," says Malerman. "It's about being sick of always being thought of as the same person — 'Josh is working. Josh is touring. Josh is making another record.' For one second, I'd like to be the ill-advised, wasteful artist." Ode, in effect, is a celebration of not being yourself all the time. "Cheers to the opposite of you!" he laughs.

Propped up by the stupendous talents of Derek Berk and Chad Stocker on drums and bass, respectively, Ode finds the band rehearsing a new identity. While past albums have showcased the rhythmic bombast of a traveling jam band packaged with the pop precision of Cheap Trick, the new record feels looser and less restrained, like early Flaming Lips on a psychoanalytic bent. "It's definitely a bigger studio sound," explains Malerman, "but it's not a rock sound. It's more graceful."

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