Peter Case and Paul Collins played in pop bands. Not an especially remarkable distinction for a pair of 57-year-old musicians. But look at it this way: Since 1974, folksier material aside, they have stayed slavishly, uncommonly committed to an archetypal pop band aesthetic -- three-minute songs, negligible politics, guitars, drums, the sort of low-pretense, Top 40 ambitions once so ingrained in the culture you never thought of it as an aesthetic at all. (When they say, even now, they wanted to be in the Beatles, you know they mean the loose, zippy "Can't Buy Me Love" Beatles, not the rococo "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite" Beatles.)
Case and Collins' first band was the Nerves, a prototypical Los Angeles power pop group; its claim to fame was its cult following, and that Blondie had a hit with one of their best songs, "Hanging on the Telephone." Then Case and Collins briefly formed The Breakaways. Then they split apart: Collins formed the Beat, which gathered its own cult following and toured with the Police and the Jam; and Case formed the Plimsouls, which had a pair of gems in the early 1980s ("The Oldest Story in the World," "Million Miles Away"), landed a memorable cameo in the Nicolas Cage film "Valley Girl" and became synonymous with "unrealized potential."
7 p.m. Sunday at Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave.; $15; 773-276-3600 or emptybottle.com