w/the Blood Brothers, These Arms Are Snakes

Tues March 4, Graceland, 8 pm, $10 adv (all ages).

We are the people who would like you to know/that if you can't see your vision you have nowhere to go. But don't fret/this is why we called/and this is our chant: The ones who make a difference/can dance, dance, dance. --"Join Our Party"

There's dance music for those parading to the latest garish pop diva, or there are beats that make you believe you're tearing it up wearing a skinny tie--and then there's music that makes your brain tweak as much as your body, cramming out commands through computerized chips and nourishing your cravings for a more experimental slice of body rock.

Chicago's Milemarker make music cut from the latter cloth. They aren't interested in floating to the top on bubbles of candied hooks, or copping a pose next to the cold face of '80s nu-wave-revival theatrics (for them, the '80s formed around Black Flag and the Minutemen). They're punks at heart, resisting comfortable uniformity with the same passion they use to resist the conservative, hawkish politics currently ruling this country. The band's democracy of styles ranges from lush, baroque post-whatever to more abrasive, glitchy synth noise, tightly encased with heavily loaded lyrics like, "I've got spit, so we can get to it. I've got tears for the times when I rue it."

The first Milemarker record, 1998's Non Plus Ultra, was a mesh of live hardcore and computer-sample constructs. Since then, they've released a number of full-lengths and split 7-inches (including one with the Blood Brothers) that continue to throw a creative wrench in any solid musical trajectory for the band. Part of Milemarker's eclecticism comes from their brainstorming methods: As a rule, they can't shoot down an idea without first trying it out. "It's kind of like the nonstop party wagon of music," laughs co-vocalist/keyboard mistress Roby Newton. "Musically, we function as a collective in that way, so we can always experiment with new stuff. If someone has an idea like, 'Okay, we're going to go in this cave and beat on drums,' we're like, 'All right--we'll see what happens.'"

Recently, the party wagon halted at two very different points: 2001's Anaesthetic and 2002's Satanic Versus EP. Despite the irony in the name, Anaesthetic doesn't offer a salve for jarring electronics; instead, it offers a cynical sort of beauty. Newton trades off vocal duties with bassist Al Burian (author of the excellent Burn Collector zine) and guitarist Dave Laney, backed by then-drummer Sean Husick (Noah Leger is the current drummer). Think Les Savy Fav meets the Faint, with extra white noise, a heavy political conscience, and heavier goth/shoegazer artmospherics. Satanic Verses successfully clashes analog recordings (recorded by purist Steve Albini) against digital Pro Tools constructions, calling out for social consciousness while treading through personal (read: sexual) issues under a tech-punk/brooding lounge cover.

Newton (who doubles as a DIY fashion designer and puppeteer) says Milemarker's new material draws from a thematic connection between the personal and the outside world. "A lot of the new songs are about the way people relate sexually, which is not necessarily a new thing for our band. But it's also [about] how that's affected by this crazy political time," she says. "Like in The Unbearable Lightness of Being--there's all this political stuff, but then there are all these descriptions of relationships, so it's a way of saying, 'We'll trick you into listening to us with the sex, and then you're gonna get all this other programming with it.'"

Last month, Milemarker played at the huge antiwar protest in D.C. during Bush's State of the Union address, joining numerous other acts (including Mr. Lif and Thievery Corporation) on the Capitol lawn to make a statement against war with Iraq. For a band that invites an AK Press bookmobile on tour and has spoken out for Ralph Nader in the past, fusing the outside world with the members' inner creativity has never been difficult. "[The personal and political] work well together," says Newton. "Or they can, as long as people continue to reinvent punk and keep it an ethos and not just a genre."