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.