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Peter Tonks has probably had more hate letters published in this newspaper than any other single person over the past decade--a significant accomplishment. But over the years, he's also found time to issue a gaggle of recordings under the name Cowtown. His 21st, titled Memories R Us, finds him in the company of such area notables as Matt Bischoff, James Glower, Little Fyodor and Jinx Jones, who assist him in deconstructing pop smashes mainly penned during the Sixties. There's an inside-joke aspect to a lot of the versions present and more than a whiff of self-indulgence. But even the dopiest of these numbers ("You've Got a Friend," "Who Will Stop the Rain?") have their interesting moments, and a few (such as "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," a duet with Suzanne Lewis) actually bear repeated listens (Cowtown, P.O. Box 102335, Denver 80250). Coloring China, a CD from Martha's Wake, is certainly ambitious; the arrangements are knotty and the lyrics are loaded with messages that require serious decoding. (The players are Christians, but they don't bang listeners over the head with recruitment efforts.) Occasionally, as on "China Coloring China," things can get a little icky, but "War Within," "Stone From a Poet's Grave" and "Threshing Floor" are alterna-music offerings that keep you on your toes (available in area record stores).

So why, you're wondering, is Starbent but Superfreaked, the latest from Foreskin 500, the outfit's best album? Because Diggie Diamond and his compatriots have hit upon a formula that's perfect for them: disco/funk/techno sounds, lurid words and a general lack of decorum. Guest Erica Brown brings a Gloria Gaynor sensibility to "Deliver Me," "Bring It Down" and "Superfamily (How to Fuel a Family Fire)," while co-producer Mark the 3 Kord Scissor King gives fly beats an unmistakable attitude. There's a white-boys-who-want-to-be-darker aspect to the proceedings--especially on "Twister (Get It Up)," in which Diggie declares, "I am planet fuck"--but the phoniness soon becomes part of the fun. Groovy (available in area record stores). On the disc called Quest, X Lulu reveals itself to be a tidy, commercially minded rock trio. Singer Billy Bunting puts across the stereotypes inherent in "Time Will Tell," "Angels and Icicles" and "Close My Eyes" with enough earnestness to captivate the kind of folks who enjoy receiving Hallmark cards, and cohorts Dan Hall and Ben Hall back him ably. Whether their efforts will be enough to differentiate X Lulu from the millions of other musicians plowing this same field is open to question (Overture Records, P.O. Box 597, 1200 Madison, Denver 80206).

And the winners are...MusicLink and Jazz Alley, two music programs produced in the Denver area. At the Billboard Music Video Awards held in San Francisco earlier this month, members of Barenaked Ladies announced that Punk TV, one of MusicLink's stable of shows, was deemed the Best Hard Rock Regional Video Show. At the same ceremony, Jazz Alley won in the Jazz/Adult Contemporary category for the second consecutive year. Jazz Alley's Ken Burgmaier adds that he's just opened up an office in Los Angeles as a result of his program's growing reputation in the music industry. Under the auspices of his Antiques Made Weekly Films company, Burgmaier has put together music videos for Joe Sample, Hiroshima and Ernestine Anderson and shot footage at the St. Lucia Jazz Festival that's set to air on Black Entertainment Television (BET) at 11 a.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving. So put down that bird's leg and change the channel, all right?

Other fixin's. On Thursday, November 28, Ralph Gean spends his holiday at the Lion's Lair. On Friday, November 29, Fatwater appears at the Bluebird Theater in what's advertised as its last show of 1996 alongside Kingpin and Bile Geyser, and Tom Tilton's "Tenor Tones" bows for the first of two nights at Vartan Jazz. On Saturday, November 30, Mean Uncle Mike gets mad at Cricket on the Hill; Hell's Half Acre burns at Seven South, with Mrs. Larvae; Lord of Word and the Disciples of Bass studies Chaos Theory at the Bluebird; Matchbox 20 strikes at the Mercury Cafe; Fireside chats at the Boulder Theater; the Playpen is set up at Penny Lane; and the 'Vengers set off Monkey Siren at Herman's Hideaway. On Sunday, December 1, singer-songwriter Stewart Lewis celebrates the release of a new CD, Flip Side, at the Fox Theatre, with Sean Kelly of the Samples opening, and the Boulder Friends of Jazz stage a Dixieland jam session at Trios, 1155 Canyon Boulevard in Boulder. On Monday, December 2, Boy's Life, Jimmy Eat World, Why Planes Go Down and the Prole Art Three compare monikers at CU-Boulder's Club 156. On Tuesday, December 3, pianist Emanuel Ax displays his chops at Macky Auditorium, on the CU-Boulder campus. And on Wednesday, December 4, the Mavericks debate the merits of James Garner and Mel Gibson at the Fox. Please accept my apologies for the dopiness of this last reference.

--Michael Roberts

Backbeat's e-mail address is Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@. While you're online, don't forget to visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword. com

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