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Thursday, April 15, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Club Watch

Eclectic Maktub Remains Busy Watts' Main Focus

On a clear, chilly Friday night, Reggie Watts sits on a Pioneer Square park bench, pausing from his busy week to reflect on his career.

He is between sets as a guest improv singer at the Last Supper Club, fronting an acid jazz band put together for the show. The night before, he was solo at the Baltic Room, playing piano, singing and clowning (goofy lyrics in a near-falsetto).

Sunday night, this former Hit Explosion member will be doing more improvising, with the rest of Maktub at the 700 Club. Watts also plays in the bands Trilon (with Skerik and Santana drummer Michael Shrieve) and Unisphere, but Maktub is his main focus. The singer-keyboardist describes this unusual band as "a pop soul band with electronic influences."

Tonight, Watts and Maktub - pronounced "mock-tube" - perform at ARO.space (9 p.m., $7), doing songs from their in-progress album.

This time last year, Watts thought the album might be released on a big record label. "There was a period of time when we were getting called by every record label you can imagine, then it just kind of fell off.

"Everybody likes (Maktub), but they don't know how to classify it."

With Alex Veley on keyboards, Davis Martin on drums and Kevin Goldman on bass (and samples), Maktub blends electronic, hip-hop, jungle and soul. When record companies decided the eclectic sound - not-quite Portishead, not-quite the Roots - would be too difficult to market, Maktub went off and made a record on their own.

The main thing for Watts is that he's doing the kind of interesting music that first attracted him to Seattle (he moved here from Montana in 1990).

"Hopefully, some (record) label will `get' Maktub and pick us up," says Watts, easily recognizable in a group for his '70s afro. "But I feel success comes from being satisfied for yourself."

Maktub will be playing at ARO with other acts including Piece of Sol, the up-and-coming rap duo.

Piece of Sol opened the show on Friday night, when hip-hop-starved Seattle feasted on Salt-N-Pepa. The real spice girls turned the Showbox into a dance party. With Spinderella working the turntables, Salt (Cheryl James) and Pepa (Sandy Denton) prowled the stage, trading rhymes ("Push It," "Let's Talk About Sex") and laughs. No star posing, here.

AT THE SHOWBOX

The Residents play the Showbox on Sunday (9:30 p.m., $20 advance). This San Francisco based art-rock band has been a mystery for 25 years, never showing their faces in public - few know the real identities of the band members, who wear masks (usually giant eyeballs) when performing.

The current tour is based around the new CD "Wormwood," a disappointing collection of plodding songs based on biblical stories.

A much more exciting recording is the new EP from Alien Crime Syndicate, which recently relocated from Los Angeles to Seattle. The five-song EP is outstanding minimalist rock, highlighted by "You Found," which starts out sounding like U2, then slides into space pop as singer-guitarist Joe Reineke (formerly with the Meices) tells a post-modern love story. "You were all the things that I found so contagious/who cares what they said when they try to explain us."

Alien Crime Syndicate plays Saturday at the Showbox (9:30 p.m., $7), with the hard-rocking Western State Hurricanes. Another busy week at the Showbox is capped by Oakland's Digital Underground, the clown princes of hip-hop, on Wednesday (9:30 p.m., $18).

WHO ELSE IS PLAYING

-- David Bazan, the man behind Pedro the Lion, has an even more minimalist sound than Alien Crime Syndicate. The tortured rocker (and high-school classmate of fellow dark singer Damien Jurado) will sing the likes of "Bad Diary Days" from Pedro's fine CD "It's Hard to Find a Friend" at the Crocodile Cafe on Saturday (10 p.m., $7, with Ken Stringfellow's Saltine and Voyager One).

-- Radio Nix, a Japanese rock band, has its first American show at Aristocrats (220 Fourth Ave. S.) on Saturday (9 p.m., $6.50).

-- Randy Bachman, one of the ghosts of rock past (the Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive), takes care of business tonight at Parkers Casino (9 p.m., $20) and Friday at Milton's Mothership (8:30 p.m., $20).

-- A newer band, Boston's Dropkick Murphys, plays RKCNDY on Friday (8 p.m., $8, all ages). Their punked-out version of "Amazing Grace" is pretty amazing.

-- Mercury Rev's Sunday show at ARO was far less than amazing. Without strings and other studio touches, the marvelous album "Deserter's Songs" lost quite a bit, and Jonathan Donahue's quivering voice was overwhelmed by guitar noise.

Tom Scanlon can be reached at 206-464-3891 or tscanlon@seattletimes.com.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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