Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

So Crazy: Too pretty for punk, too ugly for glam, Mickey might just be something new

Chicago Artists, Garage Rock, Glam No Comments »

Photo: Robert Karlic

By Brian Costello

It’s one of the first warm nights of spring, and tonight’s show, after having its location changed two-to-three times due to landlord hassles and police concerns in the past week before settling on Crown Liquors in Logan Square, is packed with zitty rock ‘n’ roll youth and paunchy garage-dude vets like myself, cramming in closer as Mickey finishes setting up on the too-small stage. Dirty D, the rhythm guitarist, starts playing a guitar line not unlike “Bang a Gong,” as the drummer, Christmas Woods, marks the 2 and 4 beats on the high hat. I look around. Everyone is smiling, as much from the end of another lousy winter as for what is about to happen.

The only person not smiling is the lead singer, my old friend and collaborator Mac Blackout, who has that look I’ve seen countless times—where he’s either going to break everything around him, and/or he’s going to start screaming, like a drunken demon, some made-up song about dead babies or something of the sort. Usually, he’s a sweet Indiana kid with a chaotic creative streak, but when he looks like this (whiskey-flushed, rabid eyes, hissing mouth), well, you don’t think he’s going to hurt you, but then again, this might be the time he does. Christmas Woods moves into a triplet snare fill, and Mac screams “SHE’S SO CRAZY!!!!,” leaps into the crowd and lands on some unsuspecting audience members. The crowd not knocked down smiles, jumps in time, sings the words. They back up and dance, as Mac paces around in front of the stage in exaggerated pantomimes, falling and leaping around, singlehandedly making the term “outrageous frontman” mean something again. The music is rock ‘n’ roll at its most elemental—fun, simple, rooted in the past while putting a whole new spin on the familiar.

We’re all very happy here at Crown Liquors. The Party Season has come around again in Chicago, and Mickey is destroying another stage. Read the rest of this entry »

Dressing Pretty: UK’s The Long Blondes are more than just clothes

Glam, Punk No Comments »

By Tom Lynch

Glamour is what you make of it.

Not only did they offer a refreshing debut record that amped up the fun in danceable Brit pop, five-piece Sheffield group The Long Blondes looked really good doing it. Whatever you call it—“glam punk,” I guess—frontwoman Kate Jackson was plucked by NME in 2006 for the mag’s “cool list,” ranked as high as seventh. “Someone to Drive You Home,” the band’s first album, was a highly anticipated affair, as various singles were released preceding its unveiling and good old-fashioned hype did the rest. By the time the record hit shelves, the band was relatively well-known. The mixing of punk sensibility with influence from Blondie, Pulp and even Pet Shop Boys, The Long Blondes’ sound, energetic and aggressively sunlit, was the work of a band that never felt sorry for itself.

“Couples,” The Long Blondes sophomore record on Rough Trade, released at the start of this month, plays a bit different. Darker in nature, if even larger in scope, Jackson and crew—which includes principle songwriter Dorian Cox and a drummer tagged Screech—dig a little deeper into the group’s collective consciousness and emerge from the hole a little dirty. There’s grime and rubble and grit all over those beautiful, beautiful clothes. Like with most records that feature an accelerated amount of introspection, break-up/relationship unpleasantness dominates, but at no point do the Blondes grow dire or morose. The material’s presented much like you would expect from a band that seems determined to update New Order, as well as from a record produced by Erol Alkan, who’s worked with Klaxons, Justice and Hot Chip.

“I think we felt less pressure,” drummer Screech Louder says of the writing process of “Couples” compared to the first record. “With the first

, there was a lot of, I don’t like to use the term ‘hype,’ but I can’t think of a better one. [That] came before the first album, and once it came out, [that pressure] was gone really. Before the first record we had [released] stuff in the UK, we were called the ‘Best Unsigned Band in the Country,’ and there was a pressure to follow that up with a record that merited it. Now we’ve taken the pressure off ourselves, so it wasn’t such a big problem.”

“Someone to Drive You Home” was released in the States just last summer, making “Couples” a quick follow-up, less than a year, for American ears. “We kind of came off the tour after the summer,” Louder says, “had a couple weeks off, and we got back together to write. We booked studio time…we [just wanted] to see what came out, we were not resting on our laurels. If it wasn’t the record we wanted…it wasn’t really our intention that we wanted our [next] album now. But with the way writing works, and the industry, it just all came out really well, and we just decided to release it. We weren’t under any pressure to follow-up quickly.”

Louder says that the band’s increasing confidence—with each other, and with their individual musicianship—has not only improved the quality of the songs but made the band more capable of achieving its musical goals. “I think from my point of view, when we started the band, I had never played drums before,” he says, “and now with this record, and it’s the same with everyone, we’re just more confident as players, and at getting our ideas across. From that point of view, it’s a much more collaborative effort.”

And the darker, more “serious” material is a direct reflection of that? “Definitely,” he says. “It wasn’t our intention to make a dark record. We maybe got a little bit annoyed with the press from the first album, who compared us to the Fifties and Sixties girl groups, [talked about] the fashion…we wanted to get away from that, be recognized for musical achievement rather than the fact that some of us like to dress up pretty.”

He says that streamlining influences has become easier as well. “That’s how the songs came out,” he says. “I think we sort of listened to weird, darker music, and before we didn’t have the ability to translate that into the music we were making. There were limitations—we couldn’t do anything but write three-minute songs. Now we have the ability to do things that are a bit more complex.”

The Long Blondes play May 24 at the Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 North Kedzie, (773)252-6179, at 8:30pm. $12-$14.

Preview: Electric Six

Glam, Rock No Comments »

The flamboyant Detroit disco-arena rockers Electric Six understandably draw the same reaction from listeners as the now-defunct glam-rock act The Darkness: “Is this a joke?” This is what you get when your videos feature half-naked homosexual Abraham Lincolns, your band members have names like “Dr. Diet Mountain Dew” and “Tait Nucleus,” and at least half of your songs include one of the following words: “dance,” “party,” “drugs” and “girls.” Yet unlike fellow partymonger Andrew W.K., this sextet (pun intended) never takes itself too seriously, an attitude retained on the new album, “I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being the Master.” When lead singer Dick Valentine aggressively sings, “I have never understood why anybody likes Lenny Kravitz” and “Show me your sexy trash/but don’t make any moves/that agitate my rash,” you can rest assured this party has a keg full of satire. (Andy Seifert)
Saturday, March 29 at Double Door

Preview: Louis XIV

Glam No Comments »

RECOMMENDED
Louis XIV just wants to sex you up. Continuing its steadfast diet of double entendres and filthy, tongue-in-cheek sexual imagery, the So-Cal glam rockers’ sophomore album “Slick Dogs and Ponies” borrows more of the darker, sensual innuendo of T. Rex than their usual, AC/DC-style balls-to-the-wall drunken debauchery. Leader Jason Hill refuses to even mask the Bowie similarities in his singing style—even going as far as a faux British accent—in the “Space Oddity”-esque anthem “Air Traffic Control,” while this lyrical gem off of “There’s a Traitor in this Room” leaves little to the imagination: “Ass on the carpet / Your legs on the couch / And all you want is my love in your mouth.” Ultimately, all you need to know about Louis XIV is that—according to Hill—they’ve been banned from playing in Alabama, and any music that pisses off the South that much can’t be all that bad. (Andy Seifert)
Saturday, March 22 at Metro

Doll House: Predecessors of punk New York Dolls resurrect the glam

Glam, Rock No Comments »

By Brad Knutson

These days it seems like a month doesn’t go by without hearing of yet another rock band from the 1960s or 1970s reuniting and embarking on a grand North American tour of nostalgia. The formula has become so successful that it’s no longer confined to just the massive classic-rock dinosaurs like Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. Even relatively obscure and short-lived acts like Mission of Burma, Wire and The Soft Boys have got in on the act the last few years, returning to the small clubs that made them famous and cutting new records in the process.

Joining the ranks of reunited cult heroes in 2004 were original glam-rockers and predecessors of punk, the New York Dolls. As with many of their peers, the Dolls were first coerced to reform as a one-time event at a festival, continued playing additional gigs after more invitations started to flood in and then eventually embarked on a formal tour supported by an album of all-new material. At the time of their reformation, The Dolls were already short three members due to drug casualties (one during their heyday and two more in the decades following their split). Then, just weeks after their first reunion gig three years ago, they lost a fourth when bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane suddenly became ill and died from leukemia. Despite their almost Spinal Tap-like mortality rate, The Dolls continued to forge ahead, fueled mostly by the timeless exuberance of boisterous front man David Johansen. Alongside fellow surviving member, guitarist Sylvain Sylvain, and a supporting cast of new Dolls, Johansen is bringing the band back on the road again this winter.

I caught up with the always verbose Johansen to pick his brain on what has kept this unlikely reunion on track and how life in the music world has changed since his groundbreaking act first hit the scene more than thirty-five years ago.
Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Dark Wave Disco: Jeremy Dawson (Shiny Toy Guns)

DJ, Electro, Electronic/Dance, Glam No Comments »

RECOMMENDED
Shiny Toy Guns is one of the handful of indie electro-glam bands that actually makes wearing silver lame leggings look cool. Though they clearly have a fierce hold on 1980s fashion and emo hairdos, that’s not all they are about. They are also about making synth-heavy dance tracks packed with power chords and inspiring vocals. The group’s song “le disko” has quickly become the Chicago electro-hipster party anthem. The song was recently featured on the Motorola Razr2 commercial, and you can regularly hear the track played out at clubs like Debonair and Sonotheque. Synth and bass player Jeremy Dawson has been making a name for himself as a DJ and will be appearing behind the decks at tonight’s installment of Dark Wave Disco. Resident DJs Trancid, Mark Gertz and Greg Corner will also be busting out new wave and electro beats. So boys grab your eyeliner and black-and-white striped shirts, and girls go to American Apparel for those shiny leggings, and we will see you there! (Hilary Rawk)

Jeremy Dawson (Shiny Toy Guns) headlines this month’s installment of Dark Wave Disco, with residents Trancid, Mark Gertz and Greg Corner at Sonotheque, 1444 West Chicago, (312)726-7600, February 16, 9pm-3am. $5 before 11pm, $12 after.

Preview: Bobby Conn

Disco, Glam, Prog-rock No Comments »

RECOMMENDED
Bobby Conn brings his glammed-out, eye-shadowed freak flag to Schubas to jump-start the Tomorrow Never Knows festival. The Thrill Jockey rocker describes his new album, “King for a Day,” as “a desperate attempt to lose myself in a candy-colored fantasyland of freaks and fairies.” We don’t think he’ll have much trouble getting lost. The album features an eccentric hodgepodge of musicians, and we suspect they’ll be rotating on and off of the Schubas stage, too. Come early, because it’s gonna get weird. Nu-brass dance devils NOMO bring the funk from Ann Arbor; Chicago pop-outfit Baby Teeth supports its Lujo release, “The Simp” and Toronto’s classically trained instrumental collective, The Hylozoists, do Ennio Morricone proud with a rousing whirl of spaghettified compositions. Chicago’s own Mister Joshua anchors the upstairs from behind the turntables with a down-tempo set. (K. Tighe)
Thursday, January 17 at Schubas

Preview: The Ark/Schubas

Glam, Pop, Rock No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

The Swedish five-piece that is The Ark, and its long-haired leader Ola Salo, finds its most recent record, “State of the Ark,” bouncing between pop and dance, electronic bleeps and choir-like choruses. The record’s funny, glamorous and downright creative all over the place and the live show is sexily gross with all the sweat pouring from the moving and shaking crowd. The Ark chaotically uses chant-inducing, seventies-rock breakdowns (“I’m gonna have a no-life-low-life, till I get out, then I get Highlife, ohOHoh”) with rock-star coolness and riff-heavy electric guitars in other places, plus the record sports a pure pop song, “One of Us Is Gonna Die Young,” a perfect, playful and poignant warning to a desired lover. Hypnotic in its glow, “State of the Ark” is surprising and joyously extravagant. What a great, weird excursion in sass and swagger this is. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Ark/Schubas

Glam, Pop, Rock No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

What a great, weird excursion in sass and swagger this is. The Swedish five-piece that is The Ark, and its long-haired leader Ola Salo, finds its most recent record, “State of the Ark,” bouncing between pop and dance, electronic bleeps and choir-like choruses. The record’s funny, glamorous and downright creative all over the place and, though I have yet to indulge, I would imagine that the live show would be sexily disgusting with all the sweat pouring from the moving and shaking crowd. The Ark even uses chant-inducing, seventies-rock breakdowns (“I’m gonna have a no-life-low-life, till I get out, then I get Highlife”) with rock-star coolness and riff-heavy electric guitars in other places, plus the record sports a pure pop song, “One of Us Is Gonna Die Young,” a perfect, playful and poignant warning to a desired lover. Hypnotic in its glow, “State of the Ark” is surprising and joyously extravagant. Read the rest of this entry »