Still from the documentary “Parallax Sounds”
By Kenneth Preski
Every critical outlet must justify its insights. The reasoning should extend beyond a simple citing of sources, should move past the seduction of poetic prose, and burrow down into the very tenets of knowledge that the writing seeks to embody. For a variety of equally abstract and profound reasons, this enterprise is in a badly confused state with respect to music journalism. What’s now required is a nuanced dialogue with musicians to re-appropriate the method, to re-envision the approach in favor of the artist and the audience. To that end, Steve Albini’s thoughts are invaluable. Beyond his work as a prolific sound engineer, Albini is a university-trained journalist and a seasoned musician. His band Shellac is on the eve of releasing “Dude Incredible” at a time when traditional operations for the music and publishing industries have been malformed by the internet. Now is the moment to re-strategize.
In an interview, it’s clear that the sea change has been on Albini’s mind. Read the rest of this entry »
If it’s been awhile since you’ve caught up with New Order, and you happened to miss the reunion show in 2012, or their energetic set at Lolla last year, here’s what you need to know. New Order reemerged from yet another breakup in 2011 with a new lineup: keyboardist Gillian Gilbert returned to the band after taking time off to raise children, and Bad Lieutenant’s Tom Chapman assumed duties on bass. Read the rest of this entry »
Legendary heavy experimental band Swans is headlining Lincoln Hall for what promises to be a terrifying and fascinating exposition of the adult haunted house that the band has been showcasing for the past thirty-two years. Their latest release “To Be Kind,” is their thirteenth studio album and is as intimidating as all of their releases in the past. The whole album, which is over two hours long, sounds like the soundtrack for a tour of a serial killer’s house. Swans has honed in on the aspects of doom and gloom that affect everyone, artfully crafting these elements together in a way that don’t give the listener even a hint of a break. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Kristian Emdal
Danish punkers Iceage impressed the music blogger scene a couple of years ago with their debut full-length, “New Brigade,” and their electric live performances. For music fans, their brand of uncompromising punk rock is a breath of fresh air in a indie-rock world that seems to shy away from a real sense of abandon and danger. But the band’s troubling, continuous embrace of fascist images and references is impossible to ignore. Google the terms “Iceage and fascism” or “Iceage and racism” and you’ll find a laundry list of charges, among them the fact that more than one member has worn t-shirts and merch for the Norwegian black metal band Burzum, whose frontman, Varg Vikernes, was jailed for murder, and is an unsympathetic white supremacist and homophobe. Iceage’s band members initially remained evasive against the accusations, then later—and rather passively—denied them, claiming political ignorance and pointing out that one of their members is Jewish. Read the rest of this entry »
Relative unknowns and underground royalty: this is the balance that people have come to expect from the HoZac Blackout Fest, and 2014 delivers. Running from May 15th through the 17th at the Empty Bottle, the weekend showcases some up-and-coming acts like Shocked Minds, Toupee, First Base, and 999999999, while also boasting punk icons The Boys and The Dictators. The festivities open with the third art show that HoZac has included in their proceedings, with seventies punk photographers Paul Zone and Brian Shanley showcasing snapshots spanning decades.
Blackout Fest, especially this year, exists at a remarkable point on the timeline of punk. The parallels between 2014’s headliners and the other acts featured are undeniable in a way that should be embraced. HoZac co-founder Todd Novak explains, “These ideas of music and art aren’t new, but they’re timeless. They’re always going to be good ideas and it’s mind-blowing to see them be carried on.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Bart Lazar
Don’t call Television a punk band, OK?
It is true that forty years and about a month ago, Television played the first show at a newly reopened country, bluegrass and blues club on New York’s Bowery and changed the course of music history. CBGB’s became the spring that spat out punk rock, and Richard Hell—the band’s bassist, and co-founder with Tom Verlaine—the prototype punk emulated by the Brits.
Originally, Verlaine and Hell were angst-ridden best friends with an “us against the world” contemptuous attitude who wrote and published poetry as one entity. But Verlaine’s interest in control and perfection prevailed over Hell’s chaos, and the chiming, precise, intertwining of Verlaine’s compositions ultimately became the dominant fabric of the band, leading (perhaps aided in part by Verlaine’s relationship with Patti Smith, who encouraged him to take charge) to Hell’s departure in 1975. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Pooneh Ghana
For years now, Internet culture has spoiled rabid music fans with an overabundance of new releases. Listeners often seem to devour and then toss aside each new album in favor of the next big “Best New Music,” and punk trio Cloud Nothings could very well be the poster children of the movement. When the band’s fantastic 2012 release “Attack on Memory” hit virtual shelves, the Internet buzzed with excitement over what seemed like a hard-rocking debut. But the album was Cloud Nothings’ third, and you wouldn’t know it from listening. For the band’s first two albums, Cloud Nothings had been a well-received, homespun lo-fi pop solo project. Then lead man Dylan Baldi threw the whole formula out the window and charged onward, in classic Internet age fashion. In came a hard-hitting rhythm section, a much darker edge to the lyrics, and lots more screaming: punk outfit Cloud Nothings was born. Read the rest of this entry »
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 that nighttime world,
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 »
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 »