WEIRD WAR

"Illuminated by the Light"

Drag City

There was always a strong whiff of the theoretical about the previous bands fronted by D.C. scene mainstay Ian Svenonius, from the Nation of Ulysses (jazz-punk combo as revolutionary cadre) to the Make-Up (soul show-band as liberation-theology tabernacle). With Weird War, however, the singer and his current cohorts have settled into an undeniable groove. Such new songs as "Girls Like That" and "Put It in Your Pocket" have their quirks, but they genuinely bring the punk-funk.

Although Svenonius and some pals previously released an album as Weird War, "Illuminated by the Light" is actually the third -- and best -- coming of the Scene Creamers, who lost that name in a legal dispute. Sliding into falsetto or trading lines with singer-bassist Michelle Mae, Svenonius keeps his poses playful and his vision sharp. Even when the lyrics flirt with irony -- does the singer really believe in the force extolled in "Crystal Healing"? -- Mae, guitarist Alex Minoff and drummer Sebastian Thomson keep these tunes grounded. Svenonius clearly reads a lot, but when he insists that his message is the "Word on the Street," you can almost believe him.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Saturday at the Black Cat with Sitali and Good Morning.

Weird War's Alex Minoff, left, Michelle Mae, Ian Svenonius and Sebastian Thomson.