Dharma Bums took a long time in releasing their second album, but it's worth the wait. ``Bliss,'' on Frontier Records, is one of the best recordings to come out of the Northwest this year. The Portland-based Bums remain true to this region's raw rock traditions while becoming more polished in songwriting and musicianship. Lead singer Jeremy Wilson, known for his wild antics on stage (and his habit of wearing dresses or slips), isn't as frantic as before, which makes the rich, fascinating lyrics come through stronger. Eric Lovre has advanced from his former minimalism to powerful, out-front guitar leads. Drummer John Moen and bassist Jim Talstra provide solid bottom.
The Bums' first album, ``Haywire,'' came out on Seattle-based PopLlama Records two years ago. It was rough and showed signs of being hastily recorded, but showed lots of promise - which has been fulfilled on the new record. The band has survived by playing a lot, including frequent dates here. That experience shows in the impressive new album.
Dharma Bums play tonight at the University Sports Bar, with the Gits opening. The Bums will be back to the the OK Hotel on Oct. 26, with Hammerbox.
Queensryche marches on! The band's ``Empire'' album hopped up to No. 7 on the Billboard Top Albums chart this week, advancing from the No. 10 position. Meanwhile, the band has announced the first date of its ``Empire Tour,'' Oct. 29 in Bedford, Ireland. The group plays a dozen shows in the the U.K. - including two at the Hammersmith Odeon in London - before continuing the tour in the U.S. in early 1991. In a recent cover story in Kerrang!, guitarist Chris DeGarmo reveals that the show will include the ``Operation: Mindcrime'' concept album in its entirety, as well as most of ``Empire'' and some songs from earlier LPs. In the interview, lead singer Geoff Tate promises that no matter what happens to the group, it will continue to be based here. ``As a band we all choose to stay and live in Seattle because it's not a music industry base,'' he's quoted as saying. ``We can move about the city without the spotlight turned on us all the time. That's very important. If you have the spotlight on you the whole time, you can't see anything, you don't know what's going on. You only see yourself.''
John Lennon would have been 50 on Tuesday, and his birthday will be celebrated with a tribute that night at the Backstage called ``It's Johnny's Birthday.'' The show will feature Gary Lanz as Lennon and Ricky Howard as Paul McCartney, playing the music of the Beatles. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $9. Advance tickets are available at Ticketmaster, Orpheum Records on Broadway and the Backstage.
The Seattle Improv comedy club, rumored to be coming for more than a year, finally opens Oct. 25 at the site of the old Showbox Theatre at First and Pike. The 13th Improv club in the country, it's the largest in the chain, and the biggest comedy club in Seattle with 13,000-plus square feet. Extensive renovations have enlarged the main floor, with seating for 400, a full-service restaurant and lounge, and a billiard room. The club will book national and local comics.
Brian Eno, the influential keyboardist, composer, producer and video artist, joins Seattle composer-keyboardist Norman Durkee in ``an evening of conversation'' at 8 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Museum of History and Industry. Eno, a guru of the avant garde, has worked with David Bowie, Talking Heads, John Cale, Robert Fripp, Devo and other artists, and has recorded a large body of work since leaving the band Roxy Music in the early '70s. Recently he's been involved in presenting audio-visual shows featuring his music and videos. Tickets to the event, sponsored by On the Boards, are $11, $9 for On the Boards or MOHI members and subscribers. Information: 325-7901.
World Beat music is all over the place these days. In addition to South Africa's Johnny Clegg & Savuka at the Moore Tuesday, there's Joel Nascimento & the Brazilian Sextet tomorrow at the Moore, and Louisiana Cajun rock great Zachary Richard Thursday at the Backstage.