Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Ty Segall/Thalia Hall

Alt-Rock, Rock No Comments »

TySegall

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California garage-rocker Ty Segall has been recording music at a manic pace ever since his debut in 2008, almost as frantically as he runs his fingers up and down the neck of his guitar. His latest record, “Manipulator” (Drag City), is something like his eleventh album, depending on how you count them. He reportedly spent more time than usual making this one, and it shows. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Cymbals Eat Guitars/Schubas Tavern

Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »
photo: Eric White

Photo: Eric White

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“Lose,” the latest LP from Cymbals Eat Guitars—a band name culled from a Lou Reed quote describing the Velvet Underground’s blaring sound—begins with a carnivalesque run of keyboard notes and a reference to Klonopin taken to deal with relationship angst.

Singer Joseph D’Agostino carries a classic emo croon into territory more textural and measured than the genre his lilt suggests. The juxtaposition between CEG’s teensy energy and their adult knack for a barn-burning, shape-shifting, category-blurring number is what makes them compelling. D’Agostino screams primal things from each nook of the pristine, thoughtfully produced landscapes his band creates. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Shonen Knife/Bottom Lounge

Pop Punk No Comments »

shonenknife
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I do not think any band can put a smile on anyone’s face more than this Japanese power pop punk trio. Naoko Yamano and her bandmates have played rudimentary two-to-three-chord songs sung in rudimentary English. They’ve been going strong for more than thirty-two years and recently performed their 1,000th live show. While they may appear to be unassuming, don’t underestimate them; these ladies are simply exhilarating. We are talking about fast catchy riffs that engage, entertain and (make appropriate two-fisted hand gesture here) ROCK! Read the rest of this entry »

Still Punk and political: A Conversation with Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers

Festivals, Punk No Comments »

stifflittlefingers
By Bart Lazar

Stiff Little Fingers is a punk band originally from Belfast, Ireland that has been around since the second  UK punk wave—they formed just six months after the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned.  Some of SLF’s best known work—”Tin Soldiers,” “Nobody’s Hero” and “Alternative Ulster”—-contains lyrics that hate hate:  advocating against war, violence, oppression, racial prejudice and class hatred.  Stiff Little Fingers’ influence lives on in more commercially successful descendants such as Green Day, The Offspring and Bad Religion.

Today, the band still exists with two of its four original members and recently released “No Going Back,” its first album in eleven years. The album just hit the charts in the UK at number fourteen, the band’s best performing material since the early eighties.

Jake Burns, the original snarling/shouting lead singer is now a Chicagoan–making the band twenty-five-percent local.  He discussed  the band’s history, relevance today and playing at Riot Fest in a recent interview.

How would you describe SLF to someone who is going to Riot Fest, and has never heard of you or your music?
We are a punk band that’s been doing it for thirty-seven years. We have always tried to play music that entertains, but means something in terms of social commentary.  Sometimes we are called a “Political” band, but I would say “political” with a small “p.” Certainly, we don’t play a lot of love songs.

Have the driving themes of your music changed over the years?
The themes we focus on—class distinctions, caring for one another, racism—are consistent. Those are the things that concern me most and those are the things that we can change. We can’t cure cancer. We live in America, where there are people sleeping in cardboard boxes. They are all things that offend my sense of justice. This is fixable!

Are you more optimistic about the world than you were back in 1978?
I don’t think so to be honest. People really are polarized. People that have things want to hold on to them.The “Greed is Good” mentality has come back again. That kind of selfishness is pretty dismaying.

You have seen touring bands that you influenced—Green Day, Offspring, Pennywise and Bad Religion. How does that feel?
It is very flattering. Green Day had us open their tour in Australia, and it was amazing to see them standing on the side of the stage watching our whole show. One of the guys from Pennywise told us he got his first fake ID so he could get into one of our shows. That’s some kind of influence.

What can old punks teach new generations?
When we started, the music was seen as outside of the mainstream, sort of “rebel” music, and we were not all about pleasing the public or selling anything.  Now punk rock, for better than not, has become part of the entertainment industry. And most “punk rockers” today are more about making party songs. At the end of the day, we are there to entertain people, we are not university lecturers—ultimately. But we can show people that the words are more important and older punks are not shy about saying things.

What can you say about the longevity of punk rock?
As the Clash said in “Complete Control” about what was said about punk and them—”They Ain’t Gonna Last.” One truism we’ve discovered is that it [punk] never goes away. Punk rock really does seem to be a life choice. It’s not just another t-shirt. You are buying a whole set of principles, and after you get past the outward appearances, I have found “punks” to be some of the most honest, gentle, solid, nice and polite people you will ever meet.

With a new record out, at Riotfest should we expect to hear the new album or your punk standards?
Riot Fest is one of the best festivals, and I am glad to play again before a hometown crowd. Because it is a festival it is more of a celebration, sets are shorter and although some may have come to see us, people are not necessarily coming only to hear us play and some may not even be aware of us at all—so it is not the platform to play the new record. We may play one new song, but we will focus on the Riot Fest theme and play more of our older material.

Stiff Little Fingers performs at Riot Fest in Humboldt Park and an aftershow with Cock Sparrer at Concord Hall at 9:30pm on Friday September 12.

Preview: Rise Against/Aragon

Chicago Artists, Punk No Comments »

Rise-Against

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Chicago punk stalwarts Rise Against are in celebratory mode, commemorating both the tenth anniversary of Riot Fest (they’re multi-year veterans) and their fifteenth year as a band. They’ve returned from a fairly lengthy break only to achieve an unlikely coup for a contemporary rock band. More than three years after the release of their last album, “Endgame,” the band’s most recent album “The Black Market” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. It’s little wonder after hearing the album’s first single “I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore” a catchy and melodic hard-driver that definitely leans more heavily in the direction of the band’s poppier releases. “The Black Market” certainly doesn’t lack in the political screeds that Rise Against are well-known for, but it’s clear that the band’s more personal and introspective focus is in the forefront here. Read the rest of this entry »

Metal Man of Mystery: Greg Fulton’s Journey from Thrash Icon to the Party Band Circuit

Chicago Artists, Metal No Comments »

gregsoloBwhite

By Keidra Chaney

Everyone loves a good rock ‘n’ roll success story. You know the one: the scrappy band of musicians, armed with nothing more than raw talent and dreams, hustle their way to nationwide, major-label success. But these days such stories are few and far between, and for every rock-star success story that’s told, there are always several, lesser-known stories of industry mainstays that get short shrift.

For example, Greg Fulton: active in the Chicago music scene since his days as a Columbia College student in the 1980s, Fulton is currently the founder, guitarist, and vocalist of Sweet Diezel Jenkins, a Chicago-based “party band” that does mashup-style covers of R & B and pop hits. Can you imagine a funk-infused mashup of Sisqo’s “Thong Song” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”? Sweet Diezel Jenkins manages to pull it off with aplomb. SDJ has a regular gig at Red Line Tap in Rogers Park on most Wednesday nights, and the band regularly plays out at bars and festivals across the midwest, from Ohio to Michigan.

But little known to many, Fulton also represents a slice of Chicago heavy metal history, as the founding member of several metal bands: Znowhite, Cyclone Temple, and Rebels Without Applause. Znowhite, founded in 1982, was featured in a volume of the iconic “Metal Massacre” song compilation alongside a then-unknown Slayer. (Fulton is listed on Znowhite albums under his stage name, “Ian Tafoya.” He managed the band under his own name.) Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Chase Revisited/Reggies

Chicago Artists, Rock No Comments »

GS_&_DJ_on_DC3RECOMMENDED

Forty years ago this month on August 9, 1974, legendary trumpeter Bill Chase and three other band members of the pioneering jazz-rock fusion group Chase were killed in a plane crash on the way to perform at the Jackson County Fair in Minnesota.

“In retrospect, it seemed inevitable,” admits original Chase bassist Dennis Keith Johnson, who recalls a number of “close calls” in the days he was with the band. “One winter, our concert ended early, so we thought, ‘Let’s fly to the next gig tonight.’ It had snowed, but our pilot wasn’t concerned and said he would just run the plane down the runway and blow the snow off. He cranked it and you could feel the tail going down and could hear both engines shutting down. The next thing you know, we’re all asked to get out and ‘push the plane.’ We got out and the nose of the plane was sticking out over a seventy-five-foot drop over a four-lane highway and we all had to push an 18,000 pound DC3 back on to the runway!”

Johnson, who is best-known in the years since Chase for having been a founding member and original bassist of the group Survivor and for leading the Dennis Keith Experience, is organizing what he describes as “the last call” performances of “Chase Revisited” to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of that fatal plane crash and to coincide with the band’s induction into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association Hall of Fame on August 31 in Arnolds Park, Iowa, as well as with the Chicago Jazz Festival. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Sleep/Thalia Hall

Metal No Comments »

sleeppromo121-620x496RECOMMENDED

“Metal” is a very broad term, roping together a sweeping mass of bands that do not necessarily belong in the same genre. Sleep falls into this category, stoner metal specifically, but denies the stereotypes that make metal as a whole sound shallow. Their songs are essentially full albums with well thought-out compositions. Sleep knows how to find a hook and blow it up tenfold into long, massive songs that fade into each other and make longer, more narrative pieces. It’s difficult to find parallels between Sleep and certain godfathers of metal because they have moved beyond the blueprints set up for them. Sleep is evidence that metal has almost untraceably evolved since its beginnings.  Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: She Keeps Bees/Beat Kitchen

Indie Rock No Comments »

She-Keeps-Bees_Molly-Donahue13RECOMMENDED

When Jessica Larrabee and Andy LaPlant formed She Keeps Bees in 2006, LaPlant was banging a borrowed drum kit perched atop a stepladder to back Larrabee’s vocals. In those bedroom recording sessions, LaPlant also served as sound engineer on the pair’s sparse but powerful blues-tinted rock. So when they chose to work with a producer on their most recent record, “Eight Houses,” She Keeps Bees found themselves with a lot more input. Producer Nicolas Vernhes’ outside opinion “allowed us to really break down songs,” said Larrabee. “I think it stretched us.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Clean/Lincoln Hall

Indie Rock No Comments »

lnrrs1

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The Clean has been a highly influential band since the beginning.

They more or less personified the Dunedin Sound, a jangly, loose, lo-fi rock genre specific to their native New Zealand, on Flying Nun Records in the early eighties. This sound, propelled by university radio stations, eventually spread all over the world. Alt-indie staples like Sonic Youth, Pavement and Guided by Voices all cite The Clean in their influences. Moving forward, these bands that draw from The Clean serve as sources for countless other musicians. If you were to make a “Law and Order: SVU”-style string-web of where Pitchfork-centric bands come from, The Clean would be at or very near the middle. Read the rest of this entry »