As much as anything else, this is the story of Bill Stevenson. He’s a drummer. And from all the praise dropped at his feet during this newly released ninety-minute film, it would seem that he’s a pretty good one. If Descendents isn’t a familiar name—and it should be—maybe Black Flag summons some sort of recognition. If not, “Filmage” has all the talking heads one’d need to get informed. Keith Morris crops up. Mike Watt, too. And it would seem that Dave Grohl is becoming the new millennium’s Ian MacKaye, replacing that D.C. stalwart in punk documentaries. Watching those famous faces flit across the screen narrating the development of Descendents doesn’t get tiresome, though. The issue with films like this is that frequently the story winds up being more gripping than the music. No pop punk resurrection is set for the immediate future, yet early cuts from Descendents—with Milo Aukerman on vocals—isn’t surpassed by too much else in the music world. 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 »
By Dave Cantor
The maturation of rock ’n’ roll hasn’t happened in any noticeable form over the last thirty-five years. Even back then, it was really just a regression to primeval tendencies that’d been glossed over amid blowin’ rails with some West Coast A&R man.
Sweden’s Holograms haven’t revolutionized the genre, but the quartet’s been at work trying to inject punk and its satellite musics with even a twinge of immediacy. They’ve succeeded sporadically on “Forever,” a follow-up to last year’s self-titled debut.
“It’s a lot of philosophical questions about life,” Andreas Lagerström, the ensemble’s frontman, says of his new work’s lyrical penchant. Most listeners would be able to guess that after pushing through the most pensive track “Rush” and its manic proclamations of how difficult it is to spark fire at the ocean’s bottom. Read the rest of this entry »
Is there a steadier formation in rock music than the power trio? History has proven that the primal pull of bass, drums and a guitar is unquestionably preferred above any other lineup. Even Led Zeppelin added Robert Plant as an afterthought. Make it a four-piece and the results will bristle. On local boys Fake Limbs’ sophomore effort, the forthcoming “The Power of Patrician Upbringing,” it’s hard to discern the lead vocalist. Is it Stephen Sowley, the guy actually tasked with singing, or Bryan Gleason, the guitarist who refuses to be outshone? The two are at each other’s throats for the duration of the record, trading screams for solos and barks for feedback. The rhythm section, Mat Biscan on bass and Nick Smalkowski on drums, pummel their instruments to keep up, but to no avail. The effect is irrepressible, wild, unkempt—something like a 5am drunken walk home alone, which is incidentally the subject matter for lead track “Green Chartreuse.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Matías Corral
Tireless San Francisco rockers Thee Oh Sees took a leisurely approach to touring on their latest album. Released back in April, “Floating Coffin” marks visionary John Dwyer’s twelfth album in ten years. Full of ambition but not hinged on direction, OCS (as the group was originally billed) began as Dwyer’s extracurricular project way back when. Several releases, some name changes, and a few band members later—the current count is five—Thee Oh Sees’ fertility has endured.
Just like on past albums, concept and cadence on “Floating Coffin” have been thrown into the woodchipper and expectorated. Or, imagine a game-show wheel with narrow pegs jutting out along the circumference of its pizza-sliced face, and the labels fuzz rock, psych-folk, psych-pop, garage, punk, noise, children’s songs and Krautrock tapering into the center. The wheel is spun and an excitement of the outcome builds, only there’s no stopping device. The wheel remains perpetually unpredictable. This is how Thee Oh Sees have proven that time, not concept, is all they need to be a truly great band. Read the rest of this entry »
Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Emo, Festivals, Hardcore, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Pop Punk, Punk, Rap, Rock
Thirteen concurrent thoughts that afflict the bystander of a bus advertisement featuring this year’s Riot Fest lineup: I had no idea The Replacements got back together. Can you imagine how many kids will be singing along to Fall Out Boy and Blink-182? Can you imagine how many of their parents will be singing along to the Violent Femmes? Even without Kim Deal, I don’t think I can see the Pixies enough. What I wouldn’t do to see Debbie Harry duet with Danzig. It’s possible that Guided By Voices have written enough songs for at least one to appeal to every single person on the planet. Flavor Flav of Public Enemy may be the greatest reality television star who ever lived. One of the two Black Flag reunion bands is playing, and so is X, making this one of the best punk shows of the year. If you substitute Brand New and Taking Back Sunday in their place, the same can be said about emo. In fact, local pop punk bands popular in the 1990s are so well represented by the likes of Screeching Weasel, Smoking Popes, The Broadways and The Lawrence Arms, as to lend the festival an air of well-honed sophistication. Read the rest of this entry »
Much like the city overall, Chicago’s live music scene is unparalleled in its diversity but woefully segregated. Chicago’s DIY punk scene is sadly no different. Despite bursts of activity and efforts to bring like-minded bands and artists together, many underground creative communities mostly move in their own cliques, separated primarily by neighborhood, race, class or even gender. Community organizers Dont-e Disaster and Monika Estrella Negra saw a need for a unified punk scene and started the Black and Brown Punk Show in 2009. “We saw intense segregation between the scenes: the North Side, which was primarily white guys, with the occasional girl band, but no people of color, or shows on the West Side that were mostly brown, but with very few black people,” says Dont-e Disaster. “You get a sense that people are living very similar lives, but don’t know how to talk to each other or inhabit the same space.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Ben Pegram
Punk is derided by snobs for its characteristic lack of musicianship. Highbrows fail to recognize the tremendous importance of music with an ethic that invites any participant. Artists fueled more by practice than theory foster a fruitful exchange whenever they perform in front of an audience. At every punk show, floating in the frenzied head of every punk fan is this tiny insight: ‘I too, can do that.’ To begin creating music at all, one must transcend worries about embarrassment caused by a whole host of inadequacies, the most potent being limitations imposed by a lack of training. Punk, as a style of playing, levels the field so dramatically that music now owes the genre a great debt for the number of seasoned musicians who wouldn’t have picked up an instrument otherwise. It’s the loyal community that made a band of brilliant freaks like The Ramones possible. It’s the confrontational congregation that spawned the Sex Pistols. And it’s that same unpretentious assemblage that is responsible for the most entrancing band in our own backyard, Mayor Daley. Read the rest of this entry »
Maybe he should be dead. Maybe he shouldn’t be. But he should probably be better known. Starting out with bands like Fury, which recently had a single reissued by HoZac, Sonny Vincent’s been plying what would eventually be called punk since the early 1970s. By the time a proper scene coalesced around CBGBs, Vincent had already done his fair share for the music and founded the Testors. And while the band would only issue two songs during its initial phase—and not necessarily two of its stronger compositions—Vincent’s persistent touring and recording would glaze the efforts in historic meaning. There’re a litany of stories about the singer and guitarist gettin’ busted by cops, gettin’ sent up and being bonkers. But as always, the tag of insanity seemed to just get pinned on the guy for being a weirdo in the days before record companies thought up the phrase “New Wave” to soften punk’s image. Read the rest of this entry »
More than anything else, Memphis’ Oblivians are gonna be remembered for fostering a scene. Yeah, there’re some scattershot hits shuffled into the group’s discography, which now comprises four proper studio albums, a handful of low-run curios and some singles. Its latest, “Desperation,” comes off as a more lushly conceived melodic affair than in the past—one on which the spirit of the band’s beneficiaries comes to bear. There’s still an indecipherable amount of distortion on just about every note the dual-guitar act offers, and that Bo Diddley beat remains an important part of the trio’s approach, a cover of the Stones’ “Loving Cup” being an early-album example. “Call the Police” sounds like a rock ‘n’ roll song from Memphis should: Organ dominates the track as the band reels back and shoots off some easy three-chord jam. All of “Desperation” swings, and at some points recalls the group’s album accompanying Mr. Quintron. Newcomers aren’t going to find revelations, though. Read the rest of this entry »