Sunday, December 28, 2003

It's time to put to rest a misnomer: file sharing. To share means to take turns using a single item. What most people refer to as "file sharing" with music is file copying, not sharing. Some otherwise intelligent people have said that making illegal copies of music files is no different from what the public library does. No, it's entirely different. If a library wants to allow multiple simultaneous users of a work of intellectual property, be it a book or a CD, then the library buys enough copies to satisfy that simultaneous demand. But if they library only owns one copy of an item, then each person has to wait until someone else is finished with it before they can use Led Zeppelin's Complete Studio Recordings or Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. And with each copy that the library buys, as with any other legitimate purchase, the creator of the work earns royalties for the intellectual property.

Others have argued that musicians should be happy about illegal file copying because it exposes their music to a wider potential audience. Such people are oblivious of the meaning of "copyright." The words are obvious: it means the right to copy. Joe Schmoe with his PC does not have the right to copy a recording unless Joe Schmoe created the recording to begin with or it falls under narrowly-defined exceptions under copyright law. It's true that many musicians have benefited from encouraging copying and recording of their music. The Grateful Dead allowed taping at their concert and copying of such recordings under the tacit agreement that the recordings are traded, not sold, so that the bootleggers aren't making a profit. Especially for bands that don't get much radio or MTV airplay, offering their songs for free online exposes their music to a new potential audience. But in both situation, it is up to the artist, not the listener, to decide which recordings and under what conditions music is free for the taking.

Some fans have used the dubious justification that illegal file copying is not only acceptable but even righteous because the music industry exploits the artist. No, the appropriate response to unconscionable business practice is a boycott, meaning that you don't buy or use their products. To take their products without buying them isn't a boycott, it's just theft. If you are really outraged by how the recording industry subjugates musicians, then lobby your legislators for government-mandated industry reform. It's a shame that Courtney Love's outlandish behavior has overshadowed and trivialized her efforts supporting changes in recording contract standards because she has a valid point regarding their unfairness relative to contracts in other creative arts.

If you think that recorded music should be free, ergo has no economic value, then make your own instead of copying someone else's work. Write your own songs, either perform everything yourself or recruit others to work with you, record it and listen to what you've created. First, see if you rack up any expenses in doing so. Then decide if you like what you've created so much that you don't need to listen to anything else, particularly the illegal copies of your favorite top-selling act.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Band name of the week and lyrics of the week both come courtesy of yesterday's Full on Friday Show with Nick Tristano on WLUW.

My favorite new band name: the Bloody Hollies. They play garage-inflected rockabilly in the vein of Reverend Horton Heat and the Cramps.  They are opening for Evil Beaver at the Empty Bottle next Saturday, December 27.

My favorite new lyric:
I used to want a girl
Who had a Ph.D.
Who looked just like a model
And never had to pee
Didn't catch the band name while I was driving, but it was from the Healthy Hair EP.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

As if I didn't already love the comic strip Frazz enough for the title character's reading VeloNews and lauding Tyler Hamilton's performance in this year's Tour de France, today he was touting Fountains of Wayne.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Once you've sung enough choruses of "Over the River and Through the Woods" and have a hankering for some different Thanksgiving musical entertainment, WXRT, 93.1 FM in Chicago, is broadcasting a Radiohead concert from Earl's Court in London at 8 p.m. on Thursday. The only problem is that they are touting it on the air as a "Thanksgiving homecoming." Someone forgot to point out that Thanksgiving is an American holiday not celebrated in Great Britain.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Nelly Furtado has a new album, Folklore, and a new baby, daughter Nevis. Her label apparently only viewed the former as good news. According to an interview in Entertainment Weekly (November 21, 2003 issue, "Listen 2 This" supplement):
Last May, before she started to show, Furtado submitted to a marathon photo shoot (14 costume changes in two days), which generated enough images for a year's worth of promotion for her new album, Folklore. While that ploy (the preemptive thinking of DreamWorks, her record label) may have worked to disguise her expanding waistline, there's no covering up her musical growth.
Which invites the question: why was such "preemptive thinking" necessary? Why should a female musician have to hide her pregnancy? It's not like she's an actress playing the role of a non-pregnant woman. That she is not married to the father shouldn't matter considering that male musicians such as Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler and, most prolifically, Screamin' Jay Hawkins (said to have sired at least 57 offspring) have had children out of wedlock. If they were just doing as much work as possible in advance to allow her time off with the new baby, it shouldn't matter what state of pregnancy she was in when the photos were taken

Why not let a woman be a woman and acknowledge that pregnancy is part of womanhood at some point for most of the sex? Maybe all that was really needed was some cool maternity clothes; perhaps Kim Gordon, ultracool bass player, mother and occasional clothing designer can dream up some appropriately kick-ass duds.

Monday, November 24, 2003

I'm not particularly a fan of either, but I was astonished to learn that John Mellencamp didn't make the cut for the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while Bob Seger did. Especially since dropping the name "Cougar," Mellencamp has earned a lot of respect as a Midwestern Bruce Springsteen, chronicling the woes of Heartland average Joes. I can't quite imagine any teenager ever dreaming of being the next John Mellencamp the way I could see Dylan as such an ideal, but Mellencamp has definitely carved a niche as a chart-topping artist with a unique vision.

The same can't be said for Seger, who is little more than an unusually popular hack. He's done nothing particularly original, and his most memorable hit, "Old Time Rock and Roll" is an anthem to stagnation. He may have sold lots more records than the Stooges, who were also passed over despite being nominated, but I have never heard anyone refer to an artist as the new Bob Seger. The Stooges were distinct and influential, two traits that could hardly be associated with the utterly generic Seger. Even Rod Stewart has a better raspy voice.

It will probably take the 25th anniversary of Scarecrow, when Mellencamp finally ditched "Cougar" from his moniker, to get him inducted. Unfortunately, as was the case with Joey Ramone, it will take the untimely death of Iggy Pop to get the Stooges in, and the Ig shows all signs of being a survivor.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Concert Recommendation:  Buzzcocks, Double Door, Friday, November 28

As the saying goes, timing is everything. For bands, this can mean the momentum of your set. I recently saw a young band who worked a funky, edgy Gang of Four groove, but they came to screeching halt after every song, taking far too long to get started again. It dragged down everything good thing they had going for them. No such problems with Buzzcocks, though. When they were at the Metro earlier this year, the hits just kept coming and coming. They gleefully went through their set at a breathless pace. For all the lovelorn and youthful angst portrayed in their songs, they were so damn happy to be playing them. They show no signs of subsiding.

Some people may rightfully be confused about when exactly this show is. Fliers hanging inside the Double Door list the show for tonight, November 21. I can understand that bookings change, but the Double Door staff didn't even have to leave the building to scribble corrections on the fliers. How lazy or apathetic are they? Or is it just a scheme to attract an audience for whatever less-known artist is actually playing tonight?

Buzzcocks play with Dummy at the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, Chicago,  773.489.3160, on at 10 p.m. on Friday, November 28.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Concert Review:  Fountains of Wayne, Caviar, The Vic Theatre, Wednesday, November 19

The problem with being really into a band's albums is that you lose track of which songs are really popular and which are merely your favorites. After numerous listens, "Little Red Light" has surpassed "Stacy's Mom" and "Bright Future in Sales" as the best song on Fountains of Wayne's Welcome Interstate Managers, at least in my mind. So it was beyond comprehension that they wouldn't play it. And I was hoping for "Laser Show," from Utopia Parkway, if only to find out if they'd update the lyrics to reflect the change in Metallica's line-up.

But enough griping. What they did play was great, non-stop insanely catchy pop. Considering that Fountains of Wayne sold out the Double Door between albums, it was astonishing that they didn't sell out the Vic now that they have a genuine MTV hit on their hands with "Stacy's Mom." The good news is that, based on how the singing audience nearly drowned out the acoustic "Hey Julie," their newfound mainstream success isn't likely to make them a one-hit wonder. "Survival Car" became more obviously a Manhattan-based take on a '60s California driving songs like the Beach Boys' "Little Deuce Coupe." "Radiation Vibe" continues to be their platform for musical references; this time they ventured into Foreigner, the Cars, and Steve Perry's solo hit "Oh Sherrie" that was saved from utter awfulness by their mashing it up with the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army." They also hovered in the era when there were lots of Stacy-aged girls named Stacy with an E.L.O. cover, which they identified as such for the benefit of the youngsters in the audience.

Openers Caviar were also mining the musical past. One song began and ended with the guitarist singing through Peter Frampton-style vocal modification while the piano line from Little River Band's "Lady" played as an underlayer. They closed with several movements from the early Who mini-opera "A Quick One (While He's Away)." Their coolness in choosing such an obscure Who song was nearly obliterated by the guitarist's blatantly Townshendesque windmills.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Fountains of Wayne, Vic Theatre, Wednesday, November 19

Fountains of Wayne write such hook-filled pop songs that it should be a guilty a pleasure. But for starters, there's Jody Porter, who gives their songs just enough guitar muscle to avoid the cloying coyness of bassist Adam Schlesinger's other band Ivy. But their real strength is in their lyrics. Songs like "Stacy's Mom" and "Fire Island" are written from the perspective of teenagers, but songwriters Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood are in their 30s and drop subtle hints at the delusion of that younger age. Choruses like the one from "Little Red Light:" "It's not right/it's not fair/I'm still a mess/and you still don't care" are like clichés in the making -- the words flow together so well it's astonishing no one has thought to assemble them previously like dance/chance/romance. Their concerts lend themselves to audience sing-alongs, and the band members have the self-deprecating sense of humor needed to survive when they look like they got beaten up, or at least teased, frequently in high school.

Fountains of Wayne play with Caviar at the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield, Chicago, 773.472.0449 at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 19.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Concert recommendations: Kristin Hersh, Howe Gelb and Andrew Bird, Old Town School of Folk Music, Saturday, November 15; Steve Turner and Marc Olsen, Empty Bottle Sunday, November 16

It's "band members going solo" weekend in Chicago. Tonight at the Old Town School of Music, Andrew Bird appears without his Bowl of Fire, Howe Gelb appears without Giant Sand and Kristin Hersh appears without the Throwing Muses. Hersh has been doing solo shows for over a decade, and what she loses in not having the full band, she makes up for with great between-song banter. At one show, she talked about her difficulty in leaving her young son behind when touring; the crucial phrase of the anecdote was, "Big fat dog butt." Bird and Gelb worked with her on her latest album The Grotto.

Tomorrow at the Empty Bottle, Steve Turner leaves behind the Superfuzz and the Big Mufff of Mudhoney for a solo show. Don't expect acoustic renditions of "Touch Me I'm Sick," but it is an interesting turn for Turner. And Marc Olsen is the former guitarist for Seattle psychedelic goth outfit Sky Cries Mary, not be be confused with Victoria Williams' husband Mark Olsen, the former guitarist for alt-country outfit Jayhawks.

As for Gelb and his Giant Sand connection, it reminds me of the "Clown Without Pity" segment of the Simpsons "Treehouse of Horrors," when Homer buys a Krusty doll for Bart at the House of Evil.

The only time I saw Giant Sand, they were really boring.
That's bad.

Since they were so boring, I suggested to the guy I was talking to that we leave and get something to eat, leading to our dating off and on for six months.
That's good.

He turned to be a jerk.
That's bad.

His jerkiness made the next guy I dated, my future husband, look even better.
That's good.

So I have mixed feelings about Giant Sand, but at least they never tried to kill Homer Simpson.

Kristin Hersh, Howe Gelb and Andrew Bird play at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., 773.728.6000 at 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 15.  Steve Turner and Marc Olsen play with Matt Marque at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., 773.276.3600 at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 16.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Firewater, Empty Bottle, Friday, November 7

Imagine the Pogues but with less alcohol cutting a wider swath across Europe. Firewater are less overtly folky and incorporate gypsy and Eastern European sounds into their rock, and frontman Tod A has a cigarette-burnished voice, less raspy than Tom Waits but more in control than Shane MacGowan.

Firewater play with TV on the Radio and Birdland at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago, 773.276.3600 at 10 p.m. on Friday, November 7.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Concert Recommendation: David Mead, Schuba's, Friday, November 7

Not sure why Mead is touring now since he hasn't released an album since 2001's Mine and Yours. But it's a fine album. Unlike many singer/songwriters, Mead realizes that songs consist of more than just lyrics, and he crafts some catchy melodies to accompany his words. Or maybe all you need to know is that it was produced by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and bears an obvious stamp of the collaboration.

The other good thing about his playing Schuba's is that they've redesigned their web site, making it far less cumbersome.

David Mead plays with Mark Johnson at Schuba's, 3159 N. Southport, Chicago, 773.525.2508 at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 7.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I'm generally all for anyone taking their inspiration from Who lyrics. But why must the entire indie rock aesthetic be based on a pair of lines from "I'm One" on Quadrophenia?
Ill fit clothes
I blend in the crowd
The just-slept-in look is not only a cliché, but it is an utter lack of style. The only thing more tired than the trend of trucker hats is media references to the trend of trucker hats. One band looks exactly like another looks exactly like the audience, like they grabbed the clothes off the floor that smelled the least. Even the once-stylish Robert Plant fell prey to the anti-look on his last tour. The current perception of the punk look may have been distilled to the Sid Vicious/Johnny Thunders spiked hair/black leather jacket motif, but at least it was deliberate. And besides, the Ramones all had long hair, except C.J. who immediately grew out his military cut.

This was particularly obvious at Halloween. I attended a party where four people went as the different members of Kiss. With few other bands could outsiders figure out not only what group but what specific members each costume was. Just try dressing up at Pavement or Bright Eyes or Modest Mouse for Halloween. Even the most hardcore indie snob would have a hard time guessing you were in a costume, let alone which distinct band you were supposed to be.

Fortunately some new bands are making an effort to forge a unique image. The Hives and the White Stripes have color schemes. The Mooney Suzuki all don black but pay attention to details, such as the drummer's neckerchief. Interpol always look like they've gotten their hair cut within the last month, while most indie rockers barely look like they've gotten their hair washed within in the last  month. And older acts that are still strong musically are also still strong on the style front: the Fall's Mark E. Smith took the stage at the tiny Empty Bottle in a freshly-pressed shirt and well-cut trousers. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds all sported their unique take on haberdashery. And there's always the Echo & the Bunnymen option: keep the lights dim and swath the stage in so much fog that no one can quite tell what you're wearing anyway.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Concert Review: Echo & the Bunnymen, the Stills, Metro, Chicago, October 29

Consider the Who and Echo & the Bunnymen. Both lost their drummers to tragic, early deaths. Both continue to tour despite being down to just their original singers and lead guitarists and apparently past their creative prime. As their frontmen find diminishing interest in their solo careers, soldiering on with the band could be interpreted as desperate cash-in on nostalgia. The difference is that Echo & the Bunnymen still make their songs sound vital. Any doubts I had as to whether Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant and the four new guys (bass, rhythm guitar, drums and keyboards) are still worth seeing were immediately replaced by the shivers up my spine.

The newer songs lack the jagged edges that  make their '80s output so much more intriguing, but they were mainly trotting out the old hits and the old obscurities. The tour is in celebration of the band's 25th reunion; in December, Rhino will be reissuing remastered versions of their first five albums. The ones with the memorable, moving songs. The ones before Pete de Freitas died and McCulloch embarked on a solo career. The good ones.

I've given up on their playing anything from the underrated Electrafixion, Sergeant and McCulloch's precursor to the Bunnymen reunion, and they passed on the driving "Do It Clean." But what they did include was inspired. "Crocodiles," "Rescue, "Lips Like Sugar," "The Killing Mind." One encore included a localized cover of  "Walk on the Wild Side," rhyming "Chicago" and "Metro." They closed with "Ocean Rain." McCulloch started with a nearly-whispered delivery, Sergeant eventually came in with a searing guitar line. By the time McCulloch finally went for the high notes at the song's close it was orgasmic.

One of the great mysteries in life, one which I have given up on every figuring out, is what the hell Ian McCulloch is saying between songs. I've been left befuddled at numerous venues with otherwise clear sound systems, so the problem has to be a semi-indecipherable Liverpudlian accent combined with a tendency to mumble except when singing.

As for opening act the Stills, they've been compared to the Chameleons and Echo & the Bunnymen, but I just kept wondering when Gay Dad changed their name.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Echo & the Bunnymen, Metro, Wednesday, October 29

I have mixed feelings about recommending this show. On one hand, Echo & the Bunnymen have created the epitome of grandiose songs of yearning, and Ian McCulloch's soaring voice sends shivers up the spine. On the other hand, their albums since reforming in the late '90s have come nowhere near their prime '80s output, essentially watering down the brand name. If the Chameleons are Interpol with better vocals, Echo & the Bunnymen are Interpol with better lyrics. Come discover where the sharp haircuts got their start.

Echo & the Bunnymen play with the Stills at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark, Chicago, on Wednesday, October 29 at 8 p.m.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Concert Recommendation:  Mr. Scruff, Metro, Friday, October 24

In one of proudest moments in my career as a music librarian, I was able to answer the question, "What's that song that's used in the Lincoln Navigator commercials?" I had been exposed to the commercials, and therefore the song, innumerable times because Lincoln Navigator was a major sponsor of cycling coverage on OLN last year, and OLN provides lots of cycling coverage. I was already familiar with music of semi-obscure jazz musician Moondog, the fortuitous result of being on Atlantic Records' mailing list in the mid '90s. One Google search for "Lincoln Navigator Moondog" later, I discovered it was "Get a Move On" by Mr. Scruff, who will be hitting the Metro tomorrow night.

I subsequently found out about Music from TV Commercials, an index that answers many such questions.

Mr. Scruff plays with DJ Spinna the Metro, 3730 N. Clark, Chicago, on Friday, October 24 at 10 p.m.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Album Review: Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros Streetcore

This is more of a gut reaction since I haven't even listened all the way through twice yet. This posthumous release is unnerving in its ruminations and allusions to life and death considering Strummer's sudden, unexpected death last year. Eeriest of all is the closing track, "Silver and Gold," a renamed Fats Domino tune about kissing the girls, dancing every night and generally living life to fullest "before I grow too old."

Apart from the after-the-fact symbolism is the bigger issue that the album raises: why do you keep doing what you're doing? Athletes' bodies wear out, so they definitely reach a point where they can no longer match the top professionals in their field. With musicians, it's more vague: once you've reached a commercial and/or critical peak, is it possible to surpass or even match earlier successes? So why do you continue? Is it for the process or the outcome, the joy of the activity itself or the glory that results in terms of fame, money, acclaim and power? Cyclist Sean Yates was always happiest helping other teammates win races and was uncomfortable with the attention when he was in the lead; rather than retiring, he started racing on the masters' circuit just for the love of getting on a bike and going fast. And it's obvious from Streetcore that even if the Mescaleros were never going to be labeled "the only band that matters these days," former Clashman Strummer was recording and touring for the love of playing music. The album is joyous.

Especially in light of Elliott Smith's apparent suicide, Streetcore is a needed reminder of a musician ending his days doing something that made him really happy.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Concert Recommendation: The Strokes, Aragon, Sunday, October 19

The most important news item about this show is the venue and date change; it was originally scheduled for the UIC Pavilion for Saturday, October 18. The Jam Productions site has the updated information, but Metromix does not currently. Tickets for the UIC show will be honored at the general admission Aragon.

The second most important thing about this show is whether the Strokes can outlast the hype. The furor over this band was so strong that the backlash against them started against them before their debut album was even released, mainly in the form of resentment that they achieved too much too soon and the boys didn't come from dirt poor backgrounds. This Is It proved that the songwriting was sharp and their musical style drawing on many elements of New York '70s punk. But the main indictment I've heard of the petty jealousy of this band was in an article in Q. A music industry veteran in their camp observed that the Strokes are the only band he'd ever seen that practiced on their days off when they toured. Not only are they talented, but they are clearly working hard to achieve their moderate commercial success and enthusiastic reviews.

Get over your trauma and go see the band.

The Strokes play the Aragon, 1106 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, with the Kings of Leon and Regina Spektor at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 19.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Movie Review: School of Rock

In School of Rock, Jack Black plays more or less the same character as the music-obsessed Barry, his role in High Fidelity. The main difference is that where Barry's taste in music was willfully obscure as a form of password to the indie-cred secret society, Dewey's interest is straight up rock and roll.  Belle and Sebastian never merit a mention, but neither do the Beatles, because they never rocked hard enough. The premise is that Dewey, hard up for cash, takes a gig as an elementary school substitute teacher, a position for which he is completely untrained. To beat the boredom, he teaches the 10-year-olds the only thing he knows: rock music. They hit all the key points: the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Clash, the Ramones, AC/DC, Yes, Rush, Kiss. The movie is hilarious not only for nailing obsessive rock fandom but also for Black's wonderful physical humor. The guy can do the wave with his eyebrows, for starters.

For some reason, my fellow audience members did not share my enthusiasm for the cameo by the Mooney Suzuki. They don't get to play or even speak, but of course they look cool. And they cowrote the movie's title song.  Maybe we'll see them perform on Oscar night. If nothing else, the kids in the School of Rock look like they could beat up those magic-endowed students at Hogwarts.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

How boring were the Occasion opening for We Ragazzi last Saturday at the Empty Bottle? Their own bass player looked ready to fall asleep while he was playing. And the group included a woman with an overly difficult set-up for tape loops on an open reel player. It added little to the sound, so it looked like the complexity only existed to give her a hobby. Maybe they're unionized and it was a make-work scheme.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

172 fans have filed suit against Limp Bizkit for playing a short set at a Chicago festival where they were ridiculed and booed off the stage. More notably, several thousand other people who attended the show were thankful for not having to endure more of that bonehead Fred Durst.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

What a difference a www makes. is the URL for Spiritualized, the feedback-heavy band led by Jason Pierce. takes you to the Official Iron Maiden website, as does Makes one wonder what other talented, relevant band name URLs Iron Maiden bought up in a lame attempt to attract attention to their untalented irrelevant selves.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

For those whose tastes don't turn to disco chanteuse Goldfrapp at the Park West on Thursday night, consider the Ramones documentary Hey! Is Dee Dee Home? at the Siskel Film Center. Heck, since the film starts at 6:30 and is only 64 minutes long and the Goldfrapp show is at 7:30 with an opening act, you could probably do both. Those moved by my call for a Replacements reunion tour may be more interested in Come Feel Me Tremble, a doc about Paul Westerberg featuring lots of fan-shot footage. It airs September 28 and October 2.

In any case, it's safe to say that these movies will not be coming to a Blockbuster near you any time soon.

Monday, September 22, 2003

While waiting for Interpol to take the stage last Friday, I overheard a guy much younger than I excitedly tell his friends the Pixies are planning a reunion tour in April and that this was great news. I barged into the conversation to inform him that, sadly, this is not great news because they were a terrible live act. He was still in elementary school when I was out of college and seeing the Pixies in 1989-1992, so he never witnessed that, for all their innovation and cool weirdness, the Pixies were largely charisma-free and rather dull on stage.

On the karma scale, I would much sooner see the Pixies finally get rich from their artistic impact than the Sex Pistols if only because John Lydon is an arrogant bastard who needs to get over himself, a criticism I would never lob at Black Francis after interviewing him several times. But in terms of influential bands that broke up before getting their due, I'd prefer to see a reunion tour by the Replacements. They were much more volatile and vibrant live than the Pixies. Besides, it would save Tommy Stinson from having to stay with Guns N' Roses, and, while I wouldn't wish substance addiction on anyone, Paul Westerberg wrote better songs before he got sober.

Maybe it's just time for a kick-ass Pixies box set. Or someone should feature "Gigantic" or  "Debaser" or "Tony's Theme" prominently in a movie soundtrack. At least David Bowie has already done his part in helping to expose them with a great cover of "Cactus" on Heathen.

Monday, September 08, 2003

I'd been saving my "brush with Zevon" anecdote for his death, and I'm sorry to say that his time came.

In late 1990, I parted on bad terms with a boyfriend who was also a Warren Zevon fan. Zevon was in town about a month later. I expected to run into my ex at the show when I arrived during the opening act. The club was crowded, so I wasn't surprised that I didn't see him. Then I realized it was a familiar voice over the P.A. He was up on stage, alone with his guitar.

Afterwards, I got the full story. He'd brought his guitar to the club in hopes of getting Zevon to autograph it. The scheduled opening act was a no-show. The manager of the venue spotted the kid with the guitar and asked if he could fill in for the absent support act.

When Zevon took the stage, he was full of praise for my ex's bravery. I think his exact words were, "Has that guy got cojones or what?!" Afterwards, my star-struck ex was getting Warren and his cohorts to sign anything he could as evidence of his magical opportunity. The irony was that, with an audience of about 700, I was the only person there who already knew him. He quickly realized that unless he treated me right, I could deny that the whole thing ever happened.

Meanwhile, I introduced myself to Zevon. I had done a telephone interview with him earlier that year but had never met him face-to-face. He acknowledged he'd never read my article because his label had already dropped him, so he scribbled down his manager's address where I could send a copy.

Swell guy, underappreciated talent. RIP, Warren.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

As part of its college life feature, the October issue of Spin features the "First Annual Spin Campus Awards." Among the designations, they denote Spring Fling at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, as the best fest.

On one hand, having worked with both the local and touring bands that have played Fling, I'm proud of the legacy I helped create. On the other hand, I can't give much credence to the praise considering Spin's history of lazy fact-checking. The blurb mentions bands that have played Fling, including Run-DMC. Run-DMC has played at Penn twice, but in the fall as part of the regular concert bookings, not during Fling.

Eleven years ago Spin ran a tour diary of the Pixies opening for U2. The writer's dated entry for the Philly stop said that it was a Sunday and there was nothing to do. A quick check of a calendar would have revealed that the date in question was a Tuesday.

Maybe Spin's fact-checking is only lazy when it comes to Philadelphia.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I always thought Garbage was a rather generic band saved by a spectacularly charismatic frontwoman in Shirley Manson. My suspicion was backed by the ongoing indifference towards Fire Town, essentially a pre-Manson Garbage, whose CDs are now out of print. But I discovered that their style is just distinctive enough to be ripped off. I hate to begrudge a local band who has been working hard to build a following, but Kill Hannah's "Kennedy" is recycled Garbage, "Only Happy When It Rains" to be specific. Besides, Kill Hannah were already doomed when they chose the title since there's no way it could equal the Wedding Present song of the same name, although KH's lyrics do at least relate to the political family.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Ah, the internet, tool of the perpetually curious. After watching the VH1 doc on Warren Zevon, I started thinking about his ties to my hometown of Philly, in particular when he was engaged to local DJ Anita Gevinson.Philadelphia Weekly devoted a cover story to this last year.

If I get into full research mode, maybe I'll even track down an MP3 of his alternate version of "A Certain Girl" that he did as a promo for her radio station. The lyrics I remember:

There's a certain girl who's on vacation from 'YSP
What's here name?
Oy vey

Monday, August 25, 2003

By his doctor's best estimate, Warren Zevon's new album, The Wind, should have been a posthumous release. It comes out tomorrow, a year after he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and given three months to live. If there's one good thing about the death sentence of terminal illness, it's that everyone gets their chance to say their good-byes rather than realizing until too late that they missed their opportunity. The Wind is Zevon's good-bye, but it was also the chance for his musicians friends to give him his due send-off. He was the rare acerbic talent to emerge from the hedonist L.A. singer/songwriter scene of the '70s, and many of his bigger-name acolytes joined him the studio to help out.

VH1's (Inside) Out documentary chronicles this past year in Zevon's life, including clips from his gallows-humor-heavy appearance on Letterman from last October.  It reruns on Tuesday, August 26 at 1:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Jill Sobule, Abbey Pub, Sunday, August 24

To many, Jill Sobule is remembered as a one-hit wonder with a lesbian novelty song, 1995's "I Kissed a Girl." I had the good fortune of seeing Sobule for the first time mere hours before the video premiered on MTV; in introducing the song, she talked about working with Fabio and avoiding revealing the song's subject matter. It was a particularly fruitful opportunity because I was exposed to the breadth of her songwriting, not just her one popular song. Her characters include the popular high school classmate turned porn star, the anorexic workout-obsessed woman at the health club, an elderly acquaintance with a fascinating past and a deluded mind. With cheerful pop melodies, she mines the minutia of life:

One of these days and it'll be real soon
I'm gonna kick some ass
Gonna clean my room

Sobule has a new album out tomorrow, The Folk Years 2003-2003, available only at her shows and on her web site.

Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze headlines the evening. He should be interesting, but it means enduring Jeffrey Gaines in the middle of the bill. Having suffered through too many his sets when living in Philly, I can only say Jeffrey Gaines, Our Loses.

Jill Sobule plays with Jeffrey Gaines and Glenn Tilbrook at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773.478.4408, at 8 p.m. on Sunday, August 24.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Clearly it's meant to be be inflammatory and I don't necessarily agree with many of the selections, but it's funny and it thought-provoking.

One Hundred Albums You Should Remove from Your Collection Immediately

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Get the hell back to Michigan!

Ted Nugent called Illinois residents "spineless, apathetic, embarrassing wimps" because we have elected officials in our representative government who passed legislation that he, a Detroit native, doesn't support. He was invited onto a radio show to discuss the Second Amendment, but he should have been busy praising the First Amendment, which guarantees the right of ignorant idiots to show off their ignorant idiocy. I have no problem with musicians or other celebrities voicing their political opinions any more than any other citizen, especially when their logic is so easily deflated.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Concert Review: Goose Island Fest, Friday, August 15

I should get this advice posted in time to prevent today's WXRT air personality from getting booed as Marty Lennartz was yesterday: Try for some honesty. Sample script:
Hi, I'm the guy from the radio station that's on the advertising for this concert. Although I may personally be a fan of these bands, we don't actually play them on our station for fear of alienating our target demographic and reducing advertising revenue. This means that I'm insulting the bands by trading on their credibility to promote our station without doing anything for them in return. Let's face it, any money we paid for sponsoring the show goes to the promoter, not the bands. And I'm insulting you, the audience, because I'm telling the thousands of you that are enthusiastic about these bands that your taste doesn't matter. So thank you for allowing me to indulge in hypocrisy. If you really want to hear these bands, you should listen to your local college radio station that plays them all the time but can't afford to be on the concert advertising because they can barely get enough donations to cover their operating budget.
But back to the show itself. Missed all but the end of Yakuza and wasn't upset that I didn't hear more of their noise.

The Waco Bros. are just a damn entertaining band. They're tight, they're spirited, and they have fun. I don't know what they put in the water in Leeds, but I admire the tenacity of natives such as Mekon/Pine Valley Cosmonaut/Waco Brother Jon Langford and David Gedge of the Wedding Present and Cinerama to keep crafting great music even after widespread commercial interest has waned.

Especially because I'm fed up with the indie rock aesthetic, I must point out that Bob Mould looked great. His t-shirt fit, and it didn't look like he slept in it, a criticism that could be lobbed a good chunk of any indie rock audience. Bob was also looking quite fit himself, his paunchy, flannel-shirted days a distant memory. The guy is quite a gifted songwriter, but his set lacked dynamic variation. Whether he was bashing away on his acoustic 12-string or an electric guitar, it all started to run together and it wasn't loud or precise enough. Wouldn't have minded hearing him with a full band, and I guess he's decided that Modulation, his venture into electronica, was a failed experiment.

This was the third time I've seen Guided by Voices. I fail to see what the big deal is.

Sonic Youth are forging a new genre: prog grunge. While I admire them for continuing to experiment well into their career, for following their own creative muse, the fact is that they were too short on songs and too heavy on wanking. It is far less precise and more visceral, less overintellectualized than King Crimson, but it was still wanking.

Despite my criticisms, at least it was a night of outdoor music that didn't entail a trip to the evil Tweeter Center. For this, I am thankful.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Today at the public library where I work, a young woman came up to me. She was wearing a t-shirt with a straight edge slogan on it, which would imply that she's somewhat of a rock music fan. She asked me if I knew what R.E.M. sounded like because she had only heard of them.

R.E.M. were a staple of my college years. College rock when we didn't have a good name for what came after punk. They earned their fan base with constant touring and college radio support when they were a little too weird for the commercial stations. A DJ on Princeton or Penn or Drexel's station referred to their fourth album as Stipe's Rich Parents, which was funny as a insider joke, that you knew the password, rather than for any real statement about the lead singer's family's financial status. The band whose only concession to mainstream sensibilities was that Michael Stipe stopped mumbling, although even that led to debates of whether they were selling out. A band so big with the youths that references to them were plot points in two episodes of Beverly Hills 90210. The American band of the '80s who are unequivocally headed for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But she'd never heard them.

I am officially old.

Monday, August 11, 2003

It sounded like fun: the Human League at an outdoor street festival. Resurrecting fond memories of men in eyeliner, women in dark streaks of blush and the early days of MTV. With only a $5 suggested donation, it wasn't too guilty a guilty pleasure, and it also provided the chance to enjoy the summer weather a street fair. New wave nostalgia and fried Twinkies: how could it go wrong?

Egad! The idea was appealing to far too many people, and Northalsted Market Days was just a sea of humanity. It's one thing to enter a mosh pit and tacitly agree to be bumped into, but there was nowhere to avoid being constantly jostled. The massive quantities of flowing alcohol didn't help, but most of the problem was just the sheer volume of people. I came close to telling one guy who did some inappropriate touching as he pushed past me, "I don't care if you're gay. I don't want strangers grabbing my ass."

The unbearable crowds were unfortunate because the performance was showing promise. It was unnerving how much Philip Oakey sounds like Alison Moyet, but he, Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall were all in fine voice. "Mirror Man" and "The Lebanon" were the anticipated and necessary reminders that there was more to their career than "Don't You Want Me." But the sheer unpleasantness of being part of the audience made it impossible to stick around for their biggest hit.

One advantage of the $20 entry fee for the Goose Island Fest with Sonic Youth, Guided by Voices, Bob Mould, Yazuka and the Waco Brothers is that it should limit the crowd size. Here's hoping.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Concert Recommendation:  Por Vida, Thursday, July 31, Abbey Pub; Friday, August 1, Fitzgerald's

When Ben Vaughn more or less retired from touring to focus on film and television music, he noted that there's no pension plan for a touring musician. There's also health plan, a situation with unfortunately consequences for Alejandro Escovedo. The Texas singer/songwriter collapsed after a show in Phoenix on April 26, the result of complications from Hepatitis C. Escovedo has cirrhosis of the liver caused by the Hepatitis. And he has no health insurance.

Fortunately, he does have a lot of friends in the music community, who are staging benefits for him. Two such shows, under the moniker Por Vida, are in the Chicago area this week. The Chicago Tribune ran an article on the situation and concerts. has more details on all the charitable efforts, including the means to donate if you can't make it to one of the shows.

POR VIDA: A festival to benefit and honor Alejandro Escovedo happens at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773.478.4408, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July  31 with Frank Orrall & Susan Voelz & Poi pals, Robbie Fulks, Frisbie, Jane Baxter Miller, Dollar Store, Nora O'Connor, Danny Black and Puerto Muerto; and at Fitzgerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn, 708.788.2118, at 8 p.m. on Friday, August 1 with the Waco Brothers, Sally Timms, Paul Burch, Nick Tremulis, Kelly Hogan, Mr. Rudy Day, Devil In A Woodpile, Deanna Varagona and Stolie, Scott, & Lee.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

I haven't heard any reports about it, but I'm hoping that at the Dixie Chick's show tonight in Vegas Natalie Maines announced that Lance Armstrong makes her proud to be a Texan.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Concert Review: Fountains of Wayne with Ben Lee, Metro, July 17

I'm in love with "Stacy's Mom." The new Fountains of Wayne song opens with sharp exclamation points of sound, practically lifted from the Cars' "Just What I Needed." The new wave nod was appropriate given that the song, written from a high school boy's point of view, harked back to an era when "Stacy" was a popular name among teenage girls. And it could be about a subplot in Valley Girl, although in the movie, it was Suzi, not Stacey, whose mom was an object of adoration.

"Stacy's Mom" is the highlight of the new FOW album Welcome Interstate Managers, but it was just one of a myriad of perfect pop songs in their show at the Metro. Lead guitarist Jody Porter gives the songs just enough muscle to prevent pop from being a dirty word, merely kids' stuff. (As for my comments in my preview about FOW being unlike Lollapalooza white guy bands in that they aren't using their guitars to assert their manhood, Porter was approaching that line, which could be an issue for a guy named Jody. But he was more than counterbalanced by lead singer Chris Collingswood, who looks like he got beat up a lot in high school.) Their songs had the audience enthralled because they were meant for singing along, with lots of catchy choruses and harmonies.

For "Radiation Vibe," they went off onto a bunch of musical tangents, including the Cars (and I thank them for validating my continued love of their skinny tied tunes) and ZZ Top. When they branched to Boston's "More Than a Feeling" and much of the audience started singing the lyrics, Collingswood chastised them as losers for knowing the lyrics by heart.

As an epilogue to my comments on Ben Lee and Evan Dando, apparently Lee is doing his best to save Dando from obscurity. He played a song he wrote that appears on Dando's latest album. Lee was a giddily earnest performer, and his covers ranged from Cheap Trick to Smiths.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Fountains of Wayne with Ben Lee, Thursday, July 17, Metro

The return of the Lollapalooza tour has generated little interest. According the Tribune, the Chicago-area stop only half-filled the Tweeter Center. While this could be chalked up to what a horrible venue the Tweeter Center is, with poorly-planned logistics and outrageously priced refreshments, it could be that the Gen X public has grown tired of the Lollapalooza formula. Even after a six-year gap, it's exactly the same: a token black act, a token female act, and a bunch of macho white guys trying to prove their manhood by waving their guitars around like dicks. It's not like there aren't alternatives to hard rock within the alternative genre, but Perry Farrell never bothered to seek out anything like jazz absurdists Soul Coughing, proudly nerdy They Might Be Giants or the totally fey Belle & Sebastian.

Case in point for a band comfortable enough with their masculinity that they can just get on with the business of writing damn catchy songs: Fountains of Wayne. They are clearly a pop band, not a rock band, because it's all about the hooks. Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger write precise songs of being lovelorn and outcast in suburbia. And they don't milk the affectations like Weezer. They're coming to the Metro in support of their new album Welcome Interstate Managers.

Opening up is Ben Lee, who first made a name for himself in 1993 with his former band Noise Addict with the song "Wish I Was Him," expressing his (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) jealousy of Evan Dando. At the time, Dando was the premiere alt-rock pin-up boy, although he was overrated as both a musician and pin-up. Dando had a public off-and-on relationship with the equally overrated but even more irritating Juliana Hatfield, who also had a guest appearance on My So-Called Life. Lee has been involved with MSCL star Claire Danes for years, while Dando and Hatfield are so out of fashion that the press no longer care about their love lives. Between Lee's cute, talented girlfriend and the support slot for Fountains of Wayne, maybe it's time for Dando to pen a new version of "Wish I Was Him" about the song's original writer.

Fountains of Wayne and Ben Lee play the  Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., Chicago, on Thursday, July 17 at 9 p.m.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Shania Is a Punk Rocker?!

Q Magazine ran a story on the trend of pop stars "going rock," donning leather and such as either a fashion gimmick or an attempt to gain more credibility. It doesn't get any more laughable than the photo of Shania Twain in the Chicago Tribune ads for their ticket giveaway for her upcoming Grant Park concert. Along with her artfully torn jeans, she's wearing an artfully torn t-shirt. Just barely legible are a bat-wielding bald eagle and the names Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee. Yes, the semi-country pop star who lip synched at the Superbowl is wearing a Ramones t-shirt. As a credibility builder, it's a failure. Most of her fans won't recognize the logo, and anyone who recognizes the logo won't be fooled for a minute into thinking she knows "Teenage Lobotomy" from "I Wanna Be Sedated." Or "Blitzkrieg Bop" from "Anarchy in the UK," for that matter.

A mere listen to the background music at their respective web sites, and, tells you all you really need to know about where Rocket to Russia fits into her record collection.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Concert Review: Elvis Costello and the Impostors, Taste of Chicago, Sunday, July 6

First, I must acknowledge the miracle that there was a very dry hour and a half for Elvis's set between torrential downpours for the outdoor concert. Second, I must acknowledge my mixed emotions about the free show. I would have rather paid $50 for an experience more like the show at the Chicago Theatre last October. Instead we got muddy sound, no direct view of the stage, a camera crew that wasn't aware that Steve Nieve was the second most interesting person on the stage, not bass player Davey Faragher (Although I did get to see enough of Nieve to guess that he did indeed really need to go to the bathroom during the show last fall; my other theory for his jittery mannerisms was that he found the best job for an ADD adult.) Even worse, the camera crew seemed to mistake the concert for a baseball game and thought that shots of the crowd could possibly be more interesting than the band. Because it was more of a general audience than one specifically of fans, they played more old songs and not enough material off last year's When I Was Cruel. The pointedly acerbic "Alibi" was the most frustrating omission. But the worst part of it was the lack of collective appreciation by the audience for the talent presented. Most people were there hanging out because it was a fun, free event, but they weren't paying attention. Songs such as "Pump It Up" and "Allison" were perfect for singing along, but it was like singing along to my Walkman, to music that only I was paying attention to since so many around me were engaged in other conversations.

But then there's the flip side, the fact that Elvis got to reach an audience that wouldn't have necessarily ponied up 50 bucks a head to see him. For one baby, Elmo and Elvis were all the same, as she played with and chewed on a Sesame Street book for much of the set. But at other times, her mom bounced her on her knee in time to the music, much to delight of mother and child.  A girl of about 7 danced in the uninhibited way that only little girls do, with an absolute purity to her joy. A rail thin teenage punk boy in an Exploited t-shirt perhaps came to appreciate that punk once had a much broader scope than just hardcore. So for the dedicated Elvis fans, it wasn't the best show, but it was definitely beneficial for the city of Chicago as a whole.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Concert Recommendation:  The Woggles, Subterranean, Sunday, June 29

One advantage of interviewing musicians I admire is that they tip me off to bands they like. I discovered the Poster Children after That Petrol Emotion's drummer recommended them. I went to see the Woggles after Palmyra Delran of the Friggs raved about them in an interview. The band work a similar vein of garage/frat rock as the Fleshtones, and like Peter Zaremba & Co. put on an amazingly crazed live show. It's pure entertainment with no advance knowledge of their songs required.

The Woggles play Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave., Chicago, 773.278.6600 at with Mr. Airplane Man at 9:30 on Sunday, June 29.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

When Mudhoney played the Metro in '99, I made a somewhat deliberate effort to dress like my early '90s self with the intent of braving the moshpit. I'd stopped moshing around '94 when moshpits became overrun with idiots. But the night of that concert it hit me that once I stopped moshing, I started dressing like a girl. I no longer had to dress for defense: no more leather jacket, Doc Marten's, pants with lots of pockets so I wouldn't have to carry a purse.

I had a sociology TA who posited that the social rules for moshing are just as detailed as those for waltzing. Unfortunately, some people at the Buzzcocks show last Friday at the Metro need a refresher course on the rules. Specifically, if you want to crash into other people, go to the  moshpit where, by implied collective contract, others have agreed to be crashed into. Do not be a moshpit unto yourself.

When I become Queen of the World, I will decree that no one can mosh unless their IQ exceeds their body weight. Until then, I'll stick to wearing miniskirts and open shoes and remaining on the fringes of the pit.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Concert Recommendation: The Fall, The Empty Bottle, June 28 and 29

The great thing about real rock and roll is its unpredictability. Big pop lip-synched productions may offer precision- timed choreography and costume changes, but you're going to get the same show every night of the tour. No highs. No lows. But the fun of a genuine rock concert is the gamble: how will the artist feed off the crowd, the venue, their own mood. The Fall have always been a gamble. With frontman Mark E. Smith's dentist's drill-like vocal punctuation and the band's throbbing rhythm, one can see why the Fall are a tough sell. (Someone joked that the Fall never sell any records in the U.S. because anyone who might buy one is already on a record label mailing list.) But when the cantankerous leader is having a good night, the Fall are the greatest band in the world at that moment.  On an off night, they are just dull.

That said, it's been a different kind of gamble with seeing the Fall lately. In just over a year, they have twice booked tours to include stops at the Empty Bottle only to have the tours canceled. There have been claims that they've finally worked out their visa problems (no doubt related to Smith having been charged with domestic assault in New York in 1998 after attacking his girlfriend and Fall keyboard player Julie Nagle). But I won't believe until I see them on stage.

The Fall play the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago, 7743.276.3600 on Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29 at 10 p.m. with TV on the Radio.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Weekend Concert Round-Up

It was like Reading Festival 1990 revisited with the Buzzcocks, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and David Gedge in Chicago this weekend. It's more of a coincidence since many other acts that played the three-day music festival in England have been in town recently or are on their way soon: The Cramps, Wire, the Fall. All we need now is a Pixies reunion, since I'm certainly not hoping to ever see Ned's Atomic Dustbin again.

Buzzcocks, Metro, June 20

I think one of the Ramones said that they didn't think they were doing anything unusual or revolutionary, they were just playing pop songs really fast. The description is even more apt for the Buzzcocks. Their fat-free set was full of sing-along choruses and giddy, revved-up pop songs. Original members Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle are looking a bit paunchy but are still adorable and had a relentless joie de vie throughout the performance.

Opening act Billy Talent was like a second-rate Fugazi tribute band with a pointlessly angry front man. A heckler called out, "Play a good song." They responded with a cover Fugazi's "Waiting Room," a more explicit nod to their most obvious influence. The heckler should have been more specific and requested that they play a good song well.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Chicago Theatre, June 21

Nick may be around the same age as the Buzzcocks, but he's as wiry as ever. He and the Bad Seeds delivered a set of intense drama. Highlights included "God is in the House," which sounded like the writings of Dr. Suess if he were southern preacher, and the escalated interpretation of "The Mercy Seat," which started slowly and quietly, creeping up to a frenzied crescendo. They closed with "Babe I'm on Fire," a song so long and densely verbose that he required one Paul (Pall?) Bearer to hold cue cards with the lyrics.

Cinerama, Abbey Pub, June 21

Sally Murrell, Cinerama's keyboard player and backing vocalist, no longer tours with the band. For a band founded on a more orchestral sound to differentiate them from David Gedge's old band the Wedding Present, they sound rather like the Wedding Present in concert, including David Gedge and Simon Cleave's blistering, furious twin guitar attack. They were road-testing new material but mainly focused on their (relatively) better known tunes, including "Superman" and "Quick, Before It Melts." Sally's absence and therefore the absence of her backing vocals could explain why they passed on "Wow," a stand-out song from Disco Volante, but they more than made up for it by resurrecting the Wedding Present song "Kennedy."

Early on, David informally polled the audience about whether they preferred the Abbey Pub or the Empty Bottle, where the band has played frequently in the past. He got a mixed response. Perhaps he should have asked further into the set. Unless one is in the rather limited sweet spot at the Abbey Pub, their sound system is muddy, but the Empty Bottle provides not only better viewing lines with a wider stage but livelier sound throughout the club.

Friday, June 20, 2003

WLUP, 97.9 FM has a billboard in River North that just says, "now MORE PETTY." Yes, there's a picture of Tom of Damn the Torpedoes fame, but didn't it occur to anyone that the phrase means that they are now more focused on unimportant matters?

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Concert Recommendations: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Chicago Theatre; Cinerama, Abbey Pub, Saturday, June 21

My interest in both these artists are the result of personal recommendations. I spent the summer of '88 in London with a boom box and very few cassettes. As a result, I relied heavily on the musical tastes of the strangers with whom I moved in. My roommate, also American, brought along a trove of Warren Zevon tapes. Another flatmate, a musician himself, was a huge fan of Nick Cave. When I returned to the States, I followed up on their musical interests and was turned into a fan of both myself. I was so enthralled by Nick Cave the first time I saw him that I considered driving from Philly to Washington to see the next show on the tour.

Cinerama also has a concerts-in-D.C. connection. In the fall of 1988, I drove down to D.C. to see the Godfathers, who didn't have a Philly show on that leg of their tour. While waiting in line for the last few tickets, I befriended a British guy who was a Congressional intern. He advocated checking out the Wedding Present. I figured anyone who was as into the Godfathers as I had reliable musical taste. So I went to see them when they came to the U.S. the following year. As with Nick Cave, I was immediately enthralled and have been a fan of head Weddo David Gedge ever since. Gedge put that band on hold in 1997 to form Cinerama.

Nick Cave in concert is the personification of intensity. He sings of intertwined love, pain and death as if he were experiencing their throes at that very instant. His world is a mythologized version of the American south as portrayed in traditional blues and folk song, gone through the filter of a reluctant founder of goth.

David Gedge is the consummate love song writer. With both the Buzzcocks-inspired Wedding Present and more melodic, orchestral Cinerama, he shows off an impressive ear for conversational lyrics and an ability to capture the precise emotions in romances, such as the instant of giving in to temptation or the moment of regret when discovering that a new lover has a boyfriend. Cinerama's recorded arrangements may fall near the edge of twee, but he still attempts to saw his guitar in half just with furious strumming in concert. More recent Cinerama tours have also included some Wedding Present selections.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds play the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., Chicago, at 8 p.m. Cinerama plays the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, Chicago, 773.478.4408, with Parker and Lily and Head of Femur at 10 p.m. Both shows are Saturday, June 21.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Buzzcocks, Friday, June 20, Metro

Wire are coming to Chicago for a couple shows next week. There has been much press hoopla over their reunion. Or maybe it's just a disproportionate share of hoopla from Greg Kot. On one hand, I can understand the excitement. The angular art punk they created with their 1977 debut Pink Flag turns up in lots of "best albums ever" lists. But an important, innovative band is not necessarily a great live band. The Fleshtones are not innovative and they haven't made massive contributions to rock's recorded output, but they are blast to witness in person. Wire, on the other hand, are boring in concert. With all the ink this reunion has been generating, I started to doubt that judgment. I saw them in 1988 and 1990. Maybe these weren't really representative years for their best work. But I mentioned this to a friend who saw them last year, and he confirmed that they are still dull. So I'll just fire up my copy of The Ideal Copy instead.

Which brings us to the Buzzcocks. Their jittery pop punk makes critics swoon just as much as Wire, in part because it portrays a vulnerability in contrast to the aggression of so much other punk. Their influence is heard among young bands who think Green Day invented punk. But, unlike Wire, they're a great live band. They once sang of nostalgia for an age yet to come. The age has come.

Buzzcocks play the Metro, 3730 N. Clark, Chicago, at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 20 with Billy Talent and Serial P.O.P.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Sad news for those in need of indie CDs, Ramones t-shirts or Smiths stickers or those who wish to avoid paying exorbitant service charges for advance sale concert tickets. The Clubhouse, the retail annex of the Metro, is closing June 28. The store, at 3728 N. Clark, Chicago, is having a going out of business sale. Not everything is reduced, but it will be your last chance to buy advance tickets for shows like the New Pornographers or Dismemberment Plan without the Ticketmaster clerks at Carson's giving you odd looks when you utter the band names.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Concert recommendation: Frisbie, Saturday, June 14 at Schuba's

As any fan of Tom Waits can tell you, a pretty voice is not a requirement for being a great rock vocalist. As any detractor of Mariah Carey can tell you, a pretty voice itself is no guarantee of music worth listening to. Frisbie have two fine vocalists in Steve and Liam. They create beautiful harmonies in power pop songs without trying to sound like the Beatles.

Frisbie finally have a second album out, period. The long delay since 2000's The Subversive Sounds of Love was caused by drummer and songwriter Zack Kantor's ongoing struggles with his mental health. New City has a piece on what they went through. The new album features only Steve, Liam and bass player Ed and was recorded live, but it's all Kantor's compositions. They'll be celebrating with an early show at Schuba's tomorrow night. The limited edition CD will be on sale at Saturday's show and at their web site beginning Tuesday, June 17.

Consider this an alternative or a prelude to the garage/mod musical events of Saturday night. The show is early enough to make it to other venues without missing even an opening act.

Frisbie plays Schuba's, 3159 N. Southport, Chicago, 773.525.2508 at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 14.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

In addition to (or conflict with, depending on how you look at it) the garage night on Saturday at the Double Door, ModChicago is running Our Way of Thinking 2: Love's Happening, a whole weekend of mod music, both live a DJed, as well as a scooter rally and Mod garage sale/record swap. Events start tonight at Delilah's, 2771 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773.472.2771.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Concert recommendation:  The Fleshtones and the Cynics, Double Door, Saturday, June 14

The press is all over the new kids in the garage. I have nothing against Detroit or Sweden and happen to think the Hives are damn fine band, but the tunnel vision of some music scribes means that they ignore real talent in the garage realm just because it doesn't fit the very tight definitions of what's the in thing. Case in point: the show this Saturday at the Double Door. Neither the Cynics nor the Fleshtones are cute skinny boys in their 20's, the kind that Winona Ryder clamors to date. They are from Pittsburgh and New York, respectively, not Detroit. Instead, they have been roaring since the second wave of garage rock in '80s and both bands are still going strong. But a recent Tribune article on the movement ignored them to tout, among others, the total Dullsville Paybacks just because they're from Detroit.

Two years ago the Fleshtones headlined a show with neo-garageniks the Insomiacs at the Empty Bottle. The youngsters may have had the spiffy haircuts and wardrobe, but they had no spirit, while the Fleshtones ignited the joint the moment they hit the stage, and the party never let up throughout their set. The Cynics give so much to rock and roll that lead singer Michael Kastelic ended up in the hospital for a week after falling from the stage and continuing to perform at a show in Spain earlier this year. Forget the Vines and go see the real deal.

The Fleshtones and the Cynics play the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773.489.3160 on Saturday, June 14 at 10 p.m.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Concert Recommendation:  The Clean, Saturday, June 7, the Vic

At this point, you can take headliners Yo La Tengo for granted. The Hoboken indie rock stalwarts are always touring. But the Clean is really big deal. Before the Datsuns and the D4 were trying to turn New Zealand into the next Detroit or Sweden buzz land of new garage rock, the Clean were the font from which all the jangly and fuzzy and melodic pop from New Zealand sprung. And they haven't toured the U.S. since, like, forever. Bass player Robert Scott, who went on form the Bats while continuing with occasional stints with the Clean, downplayed their significance when I interviewed him about 8 years ago, claiming that more bands branched off from the Chills just because they'd had more members in their ranks over the course of their history.

If you can't make the show, they have a new anthology out entitled Anthology.

The Clean open for Yo La Tengo at the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago, 773.472.0449 at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 7. The show was moved from the Riviera Theatre

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Concert Recommendation:  Electric Six, Double Door, Friday, June 6

For some reason, I can't get my review of the Electric Six show in March at the Empty Bottle to actually appear on my blog. So I'll repeat what I said about them back then:

The most pleasant surprise of the evening was opening band Electric Six. The little press exposure they've gotten already feels like hype. Their semi-hit "Danger! High Voltage" shows high potential for annoyance value, with the lyric "Fire in the disco" being painful so soon after the Great White tragedy. If anything, that songs sells them short. They start from a base of garage, but bring in much more. Singer Dick Valentine recalls Sonics raspy vocalist Gerald Roslie. The throbbing, metallic tinge of the bass and rhythm guitar bring in hints of Gang of Four and Big Black. And somehow a guy with a geometric '80s 'do snuck in with the long-hairs and provides synth lines that match his haircut. Believe the hype on Electric Six, but don't be put off by their budding status as one-hit wonders.

In retrospect, perhaps I overestimated how much hype and one-hit-wonderdom is really generated by a few dozen spins on WLUW. On the other hand, the hyperbole-prone British music press like them, so there is hype-and-backlash potential. Regardless of the high or low hype level, the band is worth seeing, especially on 6/6, such an appropriate date.

The Electric Six play at the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773.489.3160 on Friday, June 6 at 10 p.m. with the Greenhornes and the Peelers.

Monday, June 02, 2003

I suspect that the tour name was the creation of a marketing department rather than the musicians themselves since neither mentions it on their web site, but Tori Amos and Ben Folds are hitting the road together on the Lottapianos Tour. It'll be like Elton John and Billy Joel but cool. Or Lollapalooza without the token treatment of women or the overly aggressive masculine music aimed at teenage boys insecure about their heterosexuality.

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival, May 31 and June 1, N. Sheffield from Belmont to Barry

As semi-free (there's a "suggested donation" at the gate) Chicago neighborhood street festivals goes, this one is offering unusually good music. Local power popsters OK Go, a reliably fun live act, go on at 9 p.m. tonight.  Tomorrow features sorta-new-wave-revivalists Enon at 7:45 and sorta-goth-revivalists Interpol at 9 (just late enough that they don't have to fear risking tans.)

Not all the acts are worthwhile. Today also features a tribute band and local singer/songwriter Ike Reilly. I heard an interview with Reilly on a local music radio show when his debut Salesmen and Racists was released. He gave a lengthy, portentous explanation of what one song was about, but the subject matter was not at all obvious from the song itself.  It was as if when he was writing the lyrics he made the mistaken assumption that everyone already knew what he was talking about.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Concert Recommendation:  The Cramps, Tuesday May 27,  House of Blues

Lux Interior has vomited on stage in the middle of concert and kept performing. Lux Interior has literally torn off all his clothes to end a concert. Even at a run-of-the-mill Cramps performance, Lux Interior streams off seemingly gallons of sweat. In other words, the guy is committed to putting on a great rock and roll show. Add to that Poison Ivy Rorschach's big rockabilly guitar and their odes to depravity, and you're looking at one hell of an entertaining evening. The highlight of the Cramps latest album, Fiends of Dope Island, is "Elvis Fucking Christ." The song is even better than the title.

The Cramps play the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL, 312.923.2000 at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 27 with Quinton & Miss Pussycat and the Phenoms.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Sprinter Mario Cipollini just earned his 42nd stage win in the Giro d’Italia bike race, breaking Alfredo Binda’s 70-year-old record. The fast, flamboyant Cipollini has earned lots of nicknames through his career: Super Mario, inspired by the video game; the Lion King, based on his mane of blonde hair, although he’s keeping it shorter and less bleached these days. But my favorite was coined by commentator Bob Roll after one of Cipo’s numerous victories last season: Mar-I-O Speedwagon. REO Speedwagon may have committed many crimes against music, “Keep on Loving You” and “Can't Fight This Feeling” among the more heinous, but at least they inspired a good sports nickname.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Ash, Tuesday, May 20, The Bottom Lounge

You can't blame Ash for not trying to break it big in the U.S. This is their fourth time to Chicago in less than a year. Their music has evolved beyond the Buzzcocks-meet-Dinosaur Jr. sound of their debut. Especially with the addition of second guitarist Charlotte Hatherley, they're a stronger live band, and they put together a glorious assortment of songs on Free All Angels, their most recent studio album. They've gone from flirting with greatness to dating greatness and are maybe even on their way to getting engaged and married to greatness.

Ash play the Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton Ave., Chicago, IL, 773.975.0505, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20. Circle & Square and McIntyre open.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

I recently heard the originals of two different songs for which I'd only ever heard the cover versions. More to the point, they were cover versions that left me wondering why anyone had chosen to cover them. If "Last Kiss" isn't the worst song Pearl Jam ever recorded, it's certainly the worst that ever got radio airplay. I assumed that Jimmy Barnes was to blame for the INXS travesty "Good Times" since he was the unknown variable with that otherwise predictably great band.

In both cases, the originals sounded little like the versions I knew.  Frank J. Wilson's take on "Last Kiss" was clearly of its era. It's early '60s doo-wop and so clearly part of the teen tragedy subgenre of  that period it is the title track of a compilation of songs about dead young lovers. The subject was depressing, but the rendition was upbeat. In contrast, Pearl Jam's stab at it was maudlin and morose, which only pointed out the weaknesses in the songs lyrics. "Oh, where, oh, where can my baby be?" just doesn't cut it at a lethargic tempo.

INXS and Jimmy Barnes retained the Easybeats' revved-up pace on "Good Times," but like Pearl Jam's version of  "Last Kiss," the most notable thing was how inane the lyrics are. "We're gonna have a good time tonight/Rock and roll music's gonna play all night." Yeah, right. The '80s version from the Lost Boys soundtrack had big '80s production. But the original had big '60s production, which was an entirely different animal.

These examples pointed out the difference between a great record and a great song. After hearing the originals of "Last Kiss" and "Good Times," I could understand the appeal. But it both cases it was the total package that made them successful: the compositions themselves as well as the arrangements. What the cover artists failed to realize was that the songs wouldn't hold up with an overhauled production style.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Good news.  Pete Townshend has been cleared of child pornagraphy charges.

Monday, April 28, 2003

The idiot in front of me at the Ministry concert thought he was being really cool by pulling out his cell phone, presumably dialing up a friend and holding his cell phone in the air pointed towards the stage. Phones in general and cell phones well inside buildings are not known for their high fidelity sound transmission. I'm sure his buddy was thrilled to hear a bunch of indecipherable noise.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind for cell phones and concerts.
  1. At most concerts, it is too loud for you to hear the person you're calling or the recipient of the call to hear you.
  2. If it is quiet enough for you to hear each other, then you are so loud that you are distracting the people trying to listen to the concert and you are disrupting the performance.
If either case, the solution is simple. Leave you cell phone off at concerts. If you have to make a call, go to the back of the venue, as far from the performance and attentive audience as possible. If you and your calls are so important, then you should have a silent vibrate mode on your phone. If it's really a matter of life of death, then you shouldn't be at the concert but should stay at home or your office where you can be more reached more reliably.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Some fans are suing Creed for putting on a bad concert. Caveat emptor. If they wanted a good concert, why did they pay to see Creed?

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Mike Doughty and Dan Wilson

There are pluses and minuses to Doughty touring solo. The old Soul Coughing songs miss something without Sebastian Steinberg's supple funk on upright bass, M'ark de Gli Antoni's unexpected samples or Doughty's shouting, "Yuval Gabay!" since the drummer isn't present. On the other hand, the spareness of just Doughty and his guitar makes it easier to decipher his absurdist lyrics. Also, he has always provided great between-song banter.

Opener Dan Wilson is worth catching in his own right. He has an angelic voice and has written some beautifully catchy songs with both Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic. Don't dismiss him as a one-hit wonder for "Closing Time."

Mike Doughty and Dan Wilson play Schuba's, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, IL, 773.525.2508, at 8 p.m. on Sunday, April 27 and 7 p.m. on Monday, April 28.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Concert Review: Ministry, Wednesday, April 22, The Vic

Asked in The Wild One what he was rebelling against, Marlon Brando replied "Whaddya got?" The same could be said of Al Jourgensen. He rebelled against the major label machinery that tried to turn him into Chicago's answer to British synth pop, complete with fake English accent. He rebelled against the Reagan/Bush era. Some of the results were glorious: Ministry's transformation to create loud, snarling, aggressive and inventive music. Okay, there was also that drug abuse. When I told several people about going to see Ministry, they shared the response, "They're still around?!" But with another Bush in the White House and another war with Iraq, Ministry has something to rebel against. Fortunately, now they're doing it just with the music, as Al has reportedly kicked drugs.

In their show at the Vic, Ministry created an impressive din. They had a pair of drummers and up to three guitars going at once. Songs like "N.W.O." showed that Limp Bizkit and their nu-metal ilk are petty whiners and wusses in comparison. On the other hand, large chunks of the show were just about the din without enough shape to the songs. One doesn't expect any open space in a Ministry composition, but at least "Stigmata" was punctuated with a distinctive guitar riff.

Paul Barker is still thin enough to go shirtless. On the other hand, with his added girth and impish dancing, Al looked like Silent Bob. He also looked joyous to be performing. When Chris Connelly joined them on stage to take over vocals, Al gave him several heartfelt hugs and used the break to repeatedly stage dive. Ministry make me proud to live in Chicago.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Madonna has a new album out today. To put it another way, today is the release date for a project designed by Madonna to maintain her fame, which really is the ultimate purpose of any of her "artistic" endeavors.

She's been around long enough that the sheer longevity of her career has given her artistic credence.  But most critics still fall for the style and ignore the shortage of substance. The woman didn't make a video in which she tossed a live hand grenade at a George W. Bush look-alike as any sort of political statement; she did it precisely so it would generate media attention. I guess she couldn't time another pregnancy to deliver a child near a release date the way she did with her first kid and Evita or the second one and Music. The music on her albums is barely memorable compared to her outrageous acts to promote them.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Since I was recently listening to one of these songs, I provide this High Fidelity-inspired list of:

Top 5 Songs to Listen to When Unexpectedly Laid Off
  1. "Mr. Suit," New Bomb Turks. Their cover version is much more visceral than Wire's detached original.
  2. "Hate The Police," Mudhoney
  3. "You're Gonna Miss Me," 13th Floor Elevators
  4. "Head Like a Hole," Nine Inch Nails. Really an all-purpose song about karmic vengeance.
  5. "Birth School Work Death," The Godfathers
And Song 5.5, for after the initial shock has worn off and you've move on to bitter sarcasm: "Rainy Day Parade," Jill Sobule.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Concert Review: The Mooney Suzuki, The Realistics, Tuesday, April 15, Metro

The Mooney Suzuki may be the hardest working band in America. This was their third time through Chicago in less than a year. I generally scoff at bands that play Simon Says in encouraging the audience to clap along, but their drummer is so propulsive that it's impossible to ignore the directive. They were infectiously energetic. The set ended with the rhythm section carrying the guitarists on their shoulders through the crowd while they continued to play. It's refreshing to see a band earn their fans one at a time through such close contact with the audience rather than just spending shitloads of money for commercial radio airplay and image consultants to make them MTV-ready.

Speaking of MTV, I hadn't heard that they ran a contest to be the Mooney Suzuki's roadie, but the apparent winner was there. After setting up the stage, he changed out of his black Coney Island High t-shirt into band uniform, plain black button-down shirt, for the set. Besides the typical roadie job of scrambling around stage keeping microphones upright and wires untangled, he was also the band's biggest cheerleader. I have never seen a roadie so happy to have his perch at the side of the stage.

The Realistics also opened for the Mooney Suzuki last October. Had they opened for a less phenomenal live act, they would have been more memorable. It was like 1979 all over again, pulling in bits of Elvis Costello & the Attractions (although the keyboard player is less shpilkesy than Steve Nieve), the Cars and the Knack. Plus, they had good footwear.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

A few Passsovers back, a Jewish publicist I've worked with found herself in London on tour with Napalm Death. They held a seder backstage before the show. She said it was quite the experience teaching Napalm Death to sing "Dayenu." I can only imagine what the contract rider looked like: beer, whiskey, beer, roasted lamb shank bone, beer, etc.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Jurassic 5, Wednesday Apr. 16, House of Blues

Some call Jurassic 5 old school hip hop because they aren't gangsta rappers, which is ironic since gangsta is more than a decade old. They also aren't about the bling-bling. Rather, their music is more musical and their lyrics more verbosely eloquent than what's popular now, which might explain why "What's Golden" didn't explode despite being so damn catchy.

Jurassic 5 play the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60610, 312.923.2000 at 9 p.m., Wednesday April 16.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Concert Recommendation: The Mooney Suzuki, Tuesday Apr. 15, Metro

Like the Police, no one really sounds like the Who because they were too intense a melding of individual talents. The Mooney Suzuki sound more like the MC5, but at least they have some of the trappings of the Who: windmilling on guitar, skinny guy with a good rock star-size nose, power chords lifted from "I Can See for Miles." And at this point, the Mooney Suzuki, with no deceased members, puts on a better show than the Who.

The Mooney Suzuki play the Metro, 3730 N. Clark, Chicago, at 7 p.m., Tuesday April 15 with the Realistics, Loudermilk and Koufax.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Just released last week was From the Attic, the debut from Damone. The Boston-area band sounds like a young Letters to Cleo. They sound young because their lead singer is still in high school. They may sound like Letters to Cleo because From the Attic was mixed by Tom Lord-Alge, who handled similar duties to LTC. One can only hope Damone share LTC's pleasant demeanor; Kay Hanley and Michael Eisenstein were among the friendliest musicians I've ever interviewed.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Although the Metro billed them as "Ceasars," the band spelled their name on the their bass drum as "Cæsars," and their U.S. label spells it "Caesars." Whatever you want to call the band formerly known as Twelve Caesars, they are finally releasing their second U.S. album. 39 Minutes of Bliss (In An Otherwise Meaningless World) comes out April 22 on Astralwerks. And I can only guess that they changed their name because clubs feared they couldn't fit them all on stage; Ben Folds Five is still a manageable number of musicians, and 10,000 Maniacs is clearly an overstatement. But there are only five Caesars.

Monday, March 31, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Ceasars, Tuesday, Apr. 1, Metro

Ceasars, the band formerly known as Twelve Ceasars and the subject of my first blog entry, are opening for fellow Swedes the Soundtrack of Our Lives at the Metro. Appropriately enough, my friend Carla to whom I referred in that entry was the one who tipped me off about the name change and the support slot. Should be fun.

Ceasars are the second band on, between Palo Alto and the Soundtrack of Our Lives, at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark, Chicago, at 8 p.m.
I was listening the Little Steven's Underground Garage the other evening. You gotta love any DJ who would follow Dion singing "Donna the Prima Donna" with a song by the Donnas. The show is a fun mix of modern garage rock, obscure tracks by famous artists and songs that just don't get played on the radio very often any more. In other words, it is music selected by a person with eclectic taste, not by a market research consulting firm.

One regular feature of the show is the "coolest song in the world this week." Introducing a track by Finland's Flaming Sideburns, he commented that finding songs is easy nowadays but would have been difficult just two years ago, when it felt like rock was dead. The resurgence in good new rock bands hit me, but I felt the previous dearth on other ways. I spent several years lamenting my inability to find good young bands. Most concerts I was attending were by artists I'd been following for years. Even my newer discoveries were musicians around my age, like Moby and New Bomb Turks. So it's been refreshing in the last year or so to find great bands still in the throes of youth - the Hives, the Mooney Suzuki, Interpol. I'd been a fan of Ash since their 1995 debut but went about six years without hearing or seeing them; they bounced back with Free All Angels, and they're still in their mid-20s. The music industry may be struggling, but the young talent is still there.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Concert Review: BellRays, The D4, Electric Six, Empty Bottle, Friday March 28, Empty Bottle

It sunk in while watching the BellRays that it has been about three years since I saw them, and a lot can change in that time.  Previously, they were a garage soul band. But new lead guitarist and young Lee Marvin look alike Tony Fate is a Jimmy Page wannabe. While the concept of Led Zeppelin fronted by Tina Turner is good in theory, the songs were too amorphous, just jams and would-be guitar solos which overshadowed frontwoman Lisa Kekaula as she tried to get a lyric in edgewise.

The D4, like the Datsuns, do put a new spin on the stereotype of New Zealand rock, as obscure a stereotype as it is. I was screaming at the TV that they would allow such ignoramuses on Rock and Roll Jeopardy when none of the three contestants knew the Chills were from New Zealand. To me and other '80s/early '90s college radio aficionados, New Zealand rock is all about Flying Nun Records, about bands with no more than two degrees of separation from the Clean, melodic guitar pop like the Bats or the dense wall of sound of the Straitjacket Fits. The D4 may be on Flying Nun but sound little like their precursors. They were rather like Sweden's Hellacopters, incorporating elements of garage rock, early punk and early '70s Black Sabbath. Despite a pair of very energetic and very flashy guitarists, they had little new to offer musically. The individual songs weren't great, but they do show promise in that the weakest song in their set was a cover of Queen's "Radio Ga Ga."

The most pleasant surprise of the evening was opening band Electric Six. The little press exposure they've gotten already feels like hype. Their semi-hit "Danger! High Voltage" shows high potential for annoyance value, with the lyric "Fire in the disco" being painful so soon after the Great White tragedy. If anything, that songs sells them short. They start from a base of garage, but bring in much more. Singer Dick Valentine recalls Sonics raspy vocalist Gerald Roslie. The throbbing, metallic tinge of the bass and rhythm guitar bring in hints of Gang of Four and Big Black. And somehow a guy with a geometric '80s 'do snuck in with the long-hairs and provides synth lines that match his haircut. Believe the hype on Electric Six, but don't be put off by their budding status as one-hit wonders.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Concert Recommendation:  The BellRays, Friday Mar. 28, Empty Bottle

It's likely the BellRays will be overshadowed by their support acts. Electric Six have quite the buzz going over the disco parody "Danger!  High Voltage" which has all the makings of a novelty hit. New Zealanders the D4 are getting mentioned on commercial radio, surprising for any band playing the Empty Bottle, particularly in an opening slot. But those who stick around until the end of the night will be richly rewarded. Singer Lisa Kekaula is quite the presence to behold, like a spirited "Proud Mary"-era Tina Turner, fronting a soul-inflected garage rock band. "Stupid Fuckin' People" is a vital anthem for anyone who ever has to deal with, well, just read the song title."

The BellRays play the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago on Friday, March 28 at 10 p.m. with Electric Six and the D4.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Concert recommendation:  Atom and His Package, Fireside Bowl, Sun. Mar. 23

I have only heard one song by Atom and His Package. I have only heard it three times. But when it's as memorably funny and giddy a piece of synth punk as "I'm Downright Amazed At What I Can Destroy with Just a Hammer," I'm intrigued by the very thought of seeing him live.

Atom and His Package play the Fireside Bowl , 2646 W. Fullerton, Chicago on Sunday at 6 p.m. with Sole, Brazil and Grand Buffet.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Concert Recommendation:  Idlewild, Friday Mar. 21, Double Door

Scottish quintet Idlewild's album 100 Broken Windows and the accompanying tour were musical highlights of 2001. They've been compared to Nirvana, but they sound nothing like a Nickelback power ballad. Even the Nirvana reference falls short because their greatest strength is their two guitarists Rod Jones and Allan Stewart's. They switch from complexly interwoven harmony to a dense barrage of sound and back again, usually in the same song. And the band puts on an energetic show.

Idlewild will be opening for Pearl Jam in May and June, so see them now in front of a few hundred people rather than several thousand.

Idlewild play at the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL, 773.489.3160 on Friday, March 21 at 10 p.m. with the French Kicks and .22.