Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Meat Wave/Subterranean

Chicago Artists, Post-punk, Punk, Rock No Comments »


This recommendation writes itself. You should go see local punk trio Meat Wave at Subterranean because they are so good the venue booked them for two shows in twenty days. It’s not a residency, and for a punk band to play twice at the same place in so short a time means they are worth the money to the venue. Understanding why is easy—their self-recorded debut tape (soon to be slab of vinyl) offers a near live snapshot of the group as genuinely graceful performers, if such a thing can be said about a punk band. Read the rest of this entry »

In Memoriam: Lorna Donley of DA!, 1960-2013

Chicago Artists, Post-punk, Punk, Rock No Comments »

“In that nighttime world,DA1
I conquered each day,
but the light would always come,
and take us away.”

Lorna Donley was an artist whose spirit cannot be distilled into words on a page. No eulogy will be sufficient enough to capture her essence. Hers was a rare flame, one bound to alight again in some lesser form at our culture’s periphery, while her work here in Chicago will burn forever, a bright beacon for the perpetual next generation.

Donley’s creative output as the bassist and singer of post-punk progenitors DA! proves what she knew all along: “Time Will Be Kind.” To her legacy, it has been. DA! didn’t sound like any other band in Chicago when they formed in 1978. They didn’t sound like any other band at all. Their contemporaries (The Effigies, Naked Raygun, Strike Under) may have gone on to achieve greater notoriety, but the “Dark Rooms/White Castles” seven-inch single, and the “Time Will Be Kind” twelve-inch EP that comprised their discography—up until a recently released rarities “Exclamation Point” LP—offer a remarkable glimpse into Donley’s pioneering sense of expression. Read the rest of this entry »

New Horse: Tim Midyett of Silkworm Breaks in Bottomless Pit

Blues, Chicago Artists, Folk-rock, Indie Rock, Post-punk, Rock No Comments »
Clockwise from Left: Andy Cohen, Tim Midyett, Brian Orchard, Chris Manfrin

Clockwise from left: Andy Cohen, Tim Midyett, Brian Orchard, and Chris Manfrin.

By Kenneth Preski

“The only reason Bottomless Pit exists is because Michael died.”

From the impetus for creativity in the face of insularity, to the soft underbelly of Steve Albini’s legacy, a conversation with Tim Midyett eight years since his hiatus from interviews offers a remarkable entry point for insight into contemporary American artistic expression; though it is clear that the discussion about his post-Silkworm work with Bottomless Pit can only begin one way, and that’s by confronting the death of former bandmate Michael Dahlquist. A few months shy of his fortieth birthday, Silkworm drummer Dahlquist was one of three musicians killed while idling at an intersection in Skokie. Their vehicle was struck by a Ford Mustang traveling 90mph down West Dempster around noon on a Thursday, the wheel helmed by a suicidal twenty-three-year-old woman. Her only injury was a broken ankle. She was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, later reduced to reckless homicide by reason of insanity. She spent four years in prison for the crime.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say about that, but I had a lot to say about it, and I wanted it to be real specific, and exactly the way I wanted to say it. All that stuff came out in our records.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Home and Garden/Hideout

Post-punk, Rock No Comments »


Tony Maimone’s one of the heaviest dudes in music you’ve never heard of—and that’s not a bass-player pun, either. Beginning his career as part of Pere Ubu’s dub-inspired rhythm section, Maimone’s gone on to record work by other ridiculously influential bassers like the Minutemen’s Mike Watt. But back in the day, while the Ubus were attempting to merge a sci-fi creepshow with music that copped punk’s energy before there was punk, he and drummer Scott Krauss anchored one of the most adventurous and confounding underground groups in the States. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Peter Murphy/Metro

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Hearing the first few seconds of Bauhaus’ “Dark Entries” from 1980’s “In the Flat Field,” fans signing up for some dour goth jams are met with an instrumental intro that may as well have been on an album from Crass. In the wake of punk’s scaffolding being pillaged by eager label folks, more than a few groups were still capable of turning the music to new concerns–sonically and lyrically. There’s nothing good going on as the “Dark Entries” progresses: “We leapt into the bed degrading even lice,” singer Peter Murphy moans. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Cola Freaks/Empty Bottle

Post-punk No Comments »


The Cola Freaks, a neu-wave punk ensemble coming out of Aarhus, Denmark, occasionally use English-language titles for their songs—“Uppers and Downers,” the first track on the band’s recently issued, self-titled full-length being an example. Even this track, though, apart from its chorus, uses Danish instead of positioning the Freaks as New World entrepreneurs.

Let’s ignore our collective inability to understand what’s going on over the course of the ensemble’s various singles and this latest long-player. Instead, the quick-step drumming and trebly guitar should wash over listeners while we conjure up some potential setting for these tunes to be birthed in the first place. “Kniven,” from the band’s album, winds up moving towards territory previously unexplored over those one-off recordings dating back four or five years. The sound here isn’t fuller, but better realized. With all the clanging chords bouncing back and forth between couplets, it’d be relatively easy to miss how much open space is created here. By dint of counting a ridiculously well-rehearsed rhythm section, Cola Freaks guitarist Morten Bjerggaard has the melodic leeway to either mimic a drummer’s high hat with down-stroked strumming, or simply allow one of those notes to hang on for a while before disintegrating. If nothing else, Jay Reatard, prior to croaking of course, tapped these guys to back him up for a while. That seems like a decent endorsement. (Dave Cantor)

May 12 at the Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western, (773)276-3600. 9:30pm. $8.

Soundcheck: Tiger Bones are the Randy Quaid of Chicago music

Chicago Artists, Post-punk No Comments »

This Thursday marks the release of Tiger Bone’s first EP, “Go Over Here,” on their newly formed record label, Dedd Foxx. The band, while friends with many in the Chicago music scene—like HoZac Records cofounder Todd Novak, or ex-Ponys member Jered Gummere—have a sound that sets them apart: a little post-punk, a little surf-rock and a little everything in between. As drummer Mike Renaud suggests, Tiger Bones are the Randy Quaid of the hometown scene.

When asked about their influences, the band wants to claim basically all time periods dating back to the fifties as source material. As guitarist Jay Ranz cuts in, “Between the four of us, we’ve probably heard everything there is to hear.” Renaud, meanwhile, points to inspiration from the world of visual art and design, claiming that their music often follows aesthetic themes arising in favorite movies or pop culture.

Renaud also explains that an important tool in the group’s songwriting has been the shared Tumblr ( account they set up a year ago. “All of us would just drop images into it that we found on the internet that we thought were cool …and I think that informed our songs more than anything.” Ranz names the site as a visual diary of Tiger Bones’ genesis. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Dismemberment Plan/Metro

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Okay, so the incorrigible pun-maker in me wants to play havoc with a title for this preview—e.g., “Dismemberment Plan Re-members for Sold Out Tour,” or “New Vinyl Ensures Dismemberment Plan Not Mis-remembered”—but any way you sell it, it’s good to see Dismemberment Plan back on the road. Maybe it’s some indication of the group’s talent that these guys’ careers after dis-membering (I know, I’ll stop) include jobs at Rock the Vote, The Huffington Post and NASA. Dismemberment Plan reflects a rigorous genius in their ability to create complexly layered music that deftly slaloms around infectious hooks. Bits of pop-punk mingle with crisp, avant-jazz drum and bass lines, or hip-hop bass and psychedelic filter pedals counterpoint Dylan-esque folk liturgy and country guitar hooks. The reissue on vinyl of their masterwork, “Emergency & I,” provides a rallying point for the new tour. DP singer Travis Morrison, in a recent discussion with NPR, disparages the CD as being “a hard, shiny, plastic, unpleasant, unhappy little medium.” If the integrity of their live performance measures up to their discernment in choosing a medium, this will certainly be a tour to remember. (David Wicik)

February 19 and 20 at Metro, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-4140, 9pm on 2/19 and 6pm on 2/20, 18+. $20.

Preview: Gang of Four/Metro

Post-punk No Comments »


Perhaps the greatest compliment to Gang of Four’s legacy is that, at first listen, their new album, “Content,” sounds so remarkably average. With decades of up-and-coming artists assiduously trying to master the playbook put down by these post-punk originators—capped by the explosion of the 2000s which saw bands like Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and the Futureheads lifting Gang of Four wholesale—it’s no great surprise that Gang of Four would fail to stand out in a world created by their imitators. This sentiment is, perhaps unwittingly, alluded to on the track “Who Am I,” on which singer Jon King complains, “Who am I when everything is me?” Nevertheless, what makes Gang of Four a viable act today, other than their celebrity, is their enduring ability to say something with their songs. Famous for their caustic political sloganeering, Gang of Four have matured, and while there is still a strong political element to their music, “Content” finds the group approaching the issues of the day from the sober perspective of half a lifetime’s worth of introspection. And, after all, since it’s their own turf they’re treading, maybe it’s time for the posers to step aside and let the big boys have the stage. (David Wicik)

February 11 at Metro, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-4140, 8pm. $28.50. 18+.

Preview: Matthew Dear (live), Loyal Divide (live), Lee Foss, Orchard Lounge/The Mid

Chicago Artists, Disco, DJ, Electro, Electronic/Dance, House, IDM, Indie Rock, Post-punk, Techno No Comments »


Techno hyphenate Matthew Dear has been a regular visitor to Chicago over the years, most recently back in October with his full live band at the Metro in support of 2010′s excellent “Black City,” Dear’s third full-length album. While some fans might be less engaged with his recent pompadoured, crooning Morrissey act, and maybe wish he’d just show up with a bag of records and DJ, you have to give Dear credit for constantly evolving his performances. This time around, Dear revisits the Big Hands project he debuted back in 2007 at the Empty Bottle. Opening for Dear is local electro-psyche-rock outfit Loyal Divide, who recently remixed Dear’s “Slowdance.” Following the live performances, DJs will take over, with local favorites Orchard Lounge and former Chicagoan Lee Foss commandeering the decks. Foss has made plenty of waves since leaving Chicago for LA, debuting on Resident Advisor’s vaunted Top DJ poll for 2010 at #38—the highest debut this year. His avalanche of recent productions—both solo and with Jamie Jones as Hot Natured—reflect the same formula he’s been using to construct his sets for years: combining deep house and techno influences with the playfulness of disco and nineties R&B. Foss doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon, with his latest collaborative project, Pteradactil Disco (Jones, Foss, Robert James and FB Julian) dropping the “Big Ass Biscuit/Clive’s Alright” EP next week on Hot Creations (Foss & Jones’ label, natch) and his anticipated “Your Turn Girl” EP dropping later in February. A cool customer behind the decks, we wouldn’t expect too many hands-in-the-air freakouts. Set phasers for: tastefully restrained and boogie-tested for a more discerning dance floor. (Duke Shin)

January 28 at The Mid, 306 North Halsted, (312)265-3990. 10pm-4am. $12 presales.