JIM THIRWELL is a talented guy, a one-man band with a keen sense for sound effects whose synthesizer arrangements are almost orchestral in their impact.

Given the proper commercial instincts, Thirwell doubtless could become quite a pop star, but it seems his sensibility lies somewhat left of the mainstream.

His latest album, "Nail," boasts songs about homicidal misogynists ("Pigswill"), the Manson family ("DI-1-9026") and life in a concentration camp ("Enter the Exterminator"), so it isn't easy imagining it settling comfortably into the Top Ten. And considering that Thirwell has chosen to call his "band" Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel, radio play itself seems rather unlikely.

For all that, there's more than mere shock value to Thirwell's songs. The lyrics to "Enter the Exterminator," for example, offer a grisly image of the filth and fear that passed for life in a concentration camp, but the music manages to bring the horror home on another level entirely, as Thirwell's ominous whisper is played off against an increasingly frenetic rhythm bed.

As with the best efforts here, the sound of Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel is as sophisticated as its concept is audacious, making it difficult to dismiss Thirwell's project as just another sick joke.

SCRAPING FOETUS OFF THE WHEEL -- "Nail" (Homestead HMS041); appearing Saturday at the 9:30 Club.