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In real estate, it's all about location, location, location. In the world of buzz bands, it's all about image, image, image. How else can you explain the recent hype for Meg and Jack White, aka The White Stripes--a guy/gal Detroit duo portrayed as a wild-ass two-person hootenanny brought to you courtesy of a brother and sister team? Well, turns out they're not really kin, unless you count being wed to each other for a time. And it's debatable whether or not their retro blues-a-billy/trashrock/angsty garage schtick (with a weird dash of folk-rock hippie chic a la Neil Young and Crazy Horse--"Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" or even Country Joe--"Hotel Yorba") is real or contrived. Or why, over a decade ago, when the Flat Duo Jets (Dexter Romweber) were getting breaks (TV appearances, an opening slot touring with The Cramps and more), the act somehow failed to capture the public's imagination. Is it that the musical consumer of today is so removed from these genres that they think The Stripes have invented something new?

In The White Stripes defense, their third disc, White Blood Cells, is decidedly charming: raw, funky, and electric with overdriven nasty sounding amp fuzz. Jack's voice is all earnest yelp, wrapping around the songs like a steamed bun around a hot weenie. If attitude is money, then The White Stripes are holding big time, right down to the jingle of the Salvation Army-style tambourine (on "Little Room"), beckoning you to drop your hard-earned beans for their disc. Elsewhere, Jack goofs on Black Sabbath ("Expecting") and gives a nod or two to Detroit second-wave garage pioneers The Gories.

Famously sloppy live, the act is 100 percent charisma driven: As one hetero guy friend sighed, wistfully gazing at a tour poster, "I've got a male crush on that guy." In addition, Cincinnati's Greenhornes (pictured), make this a double-shot of retro kool, from their perfect '60s garage-punk look to their vocal harmonies, then guitar tones and Nuggets-style repertoire. This inspired double bill, which hits town Friday, Sept. 21, at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, is definitely a show to catch. Call 967-9053 for details.

DiamondDiamondDiamondThis Thursday, Sept. 20 at the Lincoln Theater in Raleigh, fans of VH-1's reality-based TV series Bands on the Run can see winners Flickerstick, composed of lead singer Brandin, guitarist and drunken philosopher Rex "El Dangeroso," guitarist/chick magnet Cory, bassist Fletcher (the guy who cheats on his girlfriend and new baby), and drummer and "geek-to-chic" poonhound Dominic. With an arena-ready sound, soaring U2-style vocals and the kind of hapless, shooting-themselves-in-the-foot antics that made them the show's darlings, Flickerstick proved that talent will out. Live, as in their recent Greensboro gig, the group's ingenuous style (it was like wandering into a show episode) made it all the more enjoyable. Call 821-4111 for details.

DiamondDiamondDiamondThe Triangle Blues Society's 8th Annual Blues Talent Competition takes place this Friday, Sept. 21, at The Basement at Bully's in Durham and Saturday, Sept. 22 at The Brewery in Raleigh. Featuring eight bands each evening, ranging from Early Grace and Wild Blue Yonder to The Phatbacks and Mighty Lester & the Blues Kings, the contest is also a way to catch up with and cheer on local blues artists. There's also a raffle, with the winner receiving a Fender American Telecaster and Hotrod Deville 212 amp. Raffle proceeds go toward sending the winning act on to the International Blues Competition in Memphis. For a schedule of bands, visit ww.triangle blues.org. --Angie Carlson

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