Around this time last year, Conner was taking more shit than most bands could endure. The clamor centered on the Lawrence quartet’s 2002 self-titled demo, which mimicked the Strokes’ garage-fuzz clutter to the letter and earned the group scads of college radio play. Lawrence’s hipster contingent was divided: Some hailed Conner’s undeniable catchiness; others blasted the outfit for riding the Strokes’ dick like a horny porn star. (Nearly everyone overlooked that half of Conner’s original lineup consisted of members of the since-departed Holstein, among the noodliest of local jam bands — hardly a scenester résumé builder.) But the dust has settled, and the retooled Conner is forging a more original path. Some tracks from the outfit’s just-released full-length debut, The White Cube, for which it’s holding this free CD-release party, still retain traces of Julian Casablancas’ DNA, but the group is clearly branching out. Fronted by self-consciously cool singer and guitarist James Duft, Conner delivers the goods in a live setting, where it still has to prove itself every time.

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