Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Brody Dalle/Bottom Lounge

Alt-Rock, Punk, Rock No Comments »


Brody Dalle’s triumphant return to rock has been a long time coming. The former Distillers frontwoman has been in and out of the public eye for years with musical projects since the band’s 2006 break up, including Spinnerette, a one-shot collaboration with former bandmate Tony Bevilacqua and Alain Johannes (Queens of The Stone Age/Eleven). While the songs on “Spinnerette” boasted some catchy hooks, there wasn’t much that stood out about it either. But with her impressive solo release “Diploid Love,” we hear a musical range that hadn’t been fully explored in Dalle’s previous bands. Read the rest of this entry »

Monster Movie: Fuck Buttons Lumber Toward Musicality

Electronic/Dance, Experimental No Comments »
Photo/Alex de Mora

Photo: Alex de Mora

By Dave Cantor

Andrew Hung wasn’t available on a recent Monday to chat. He was at the movies, watching “Godzilla.”

His British duo, Fuck Buttons, isn’t exactly the same thing as that film’s misunderstood beast, who in its newest incarnation is something of an anti-hero. But kinda. Since 2008, Fuck Buttons has crafted three albums’ worth of monstrously noisy electronic music, beginning with its six-track “Street Horrrsing.” What Hung and his partner, Benjamin John Power, couldn’t have expected is that such an offensively named group, making such abrasive music, would wind up being something of an international success. On the strength of a track off its second album, “Tarot Sport,” the duo had its music included in the opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics. The ten-minute song’s tenor didn’t necessarily fit the heroic intention of the athletic event, but that’s of little importance. What it means, though, is that Fuck Buttons’ compositions connect with a wider audience than it has any right to. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Templars (Midwest Live and Loud)/Bottom Lounge

Festivals, Punk No Comments »


There’s surely a socio-economic reason for American skinhead bands flourishing in the nineties. Or maybe it was a logical extension of other underground genres winding up on MTV. What if Oi! was almost the next big thing? Let’s just blame the Clintons and forget that Dropkick Murphys used to be important to anyone. Whatever the explanation, Midwest Live and Loud (a sly reference to all those split live recordings from first and second wave UK punk acts) has rounded up a surprisingly vast array of performers for its three-day festival. An argument can be made for supporting acts, like Fear City and Noi!se—and there’s no reason to shy away from that take on the genre. It’s just that the Templars, Sunday’s headliners, are unquestionably the most musically talented Oi! band of the last two decades. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Loop/Bottom Lounge

Krautrock, Psychedelic, Punk, Rock, Shoegaze No Comments »


It’s a nice treat that Loop has reunited to tour for the first time in twenty-three years. That the British band is making an appearance in Chicago is the cherry on top. The crew were contemporaries of Spacemen 3 in the late eighties, both bands played an unruly mix of psychedelic-punk-krautrock. These groups are the reason come-down music as beautiful as Slowdive exists, and why a shoegaze scene became a reality. Loop is known for being an incredibly loud and intense live act, which is easy to assume the moment any of their recordings are played; the urge to turn it up is overwhelming. Distorted electricity cascades down the back of a perfectly synced rhythm section, vocals blurring in and out of lushly layered guitars—“Heaven’s End” is right, this is the perfect blend of sacred and profane. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Green/Bottom Lounge

Reggae, World Music No Comments »


Save for balladeer Jack Johnson or the late Iz, few Hawaii-based artists seem to get much attention in the mainland no matter how big they might be on the island. Luckily for Oahu-born The Green, that trend does not hold true. Their mellow, optimistic take on reggae seems to have struck a chord with mainstream fans, and from their self-titled 2010 debut onward they have been able to get the attention of reggae radio stations with reach far beyond Hawaiian locals. Their third release, “Hawai’i ’13,” (out on Easy Star) is proof of that. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Blue Sky Black Death/Bottom Lounge

Hip-Hop No Comments »

10.10 blue sky black death @ bottom loungeRECOMMENDED

Expecting Blue Sky Black Death, comprising Kingston and Young God, to retain sonic gestures referring back to its 2006 “A Heap of Broken Images” is kinda ridiculous. But to hear how far the duo’s moved away from those productions is just as surprising. Beginning its recorded life with a double disc featuring guest spots by everyone from Guru to AWOL One, BSBD immediately demanded respect. Confounding listeners in favor of projects supporting Hell Razah and Warcloud, the group moved effortlessly to more thuggish affairs before skittering off to its “Late Night Cinema,” replete with would-be indie tropes. Just two years into their career, the duo seemed capable of assimilating just about any sound it felt necessary to complete a production. After working with rapper Nacho Picasso, BSBD continued its aural explorations several years on by issuing “Skull and Bones,” which counts a choice, pitched-down Black Flag sample. Nothing is in the vein of Death Grips, but BSBD’s ability to craft what’s necessary track-to-track without consideration of source material simultaneously enables the group to entice and repel listeners. Read the rest of this entry »

Death Grips to Chicago: You Got Gamed

Festivals, Hip-Hop, News and Dish No Comments »

deathgripsBy John Wilmes

Scheduled into one of the headlining sets of Lollapalooza’s second day, and for a sold-out performance at The Bottom Lounge, the night prior, Sacramento-based band Death Grips (described variously as noise rock, noise rap, experimental rap and thrash rap) skipped it all. At The Bottom Lounge there was only a large projection of a fan’s suicide note behind the stage, and the venue’s announcement, moments after they themselves had learned, that the band wouldn’t be coming. In a reaction of incalculable irony, fans then rushed the stage to destroy the band’s equipment, as Death Grips’ angry, caustic tones played over the P.A.—but it later came out that this was not, in fact, their equipment. The next morning, it became clear that they never even got on a plane, and their Lollapalooza set was cancelled. Everyone had been gamed.

The internet exploded with this news. And this wasn’t the first time that Death Grips has scorned their fans, eager to see them—they’ve cancelled large stretches of tours, before, to work on new material instead—or upset the booking and distribution titans of the industry, either. Their most recent album, “No Love Deep Web,” was set to be released by Epic, but the band released it for free instead, on their website, with an erect penis on the cover art. An act of defiance that, after Death Grips refused to undo it, had them dropped from the label. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Wolf Eyes/Bottom Lounge

Experimental, Noise No Comments »


Even if you hate the idea of noise as music—and you have the right to—the sheer breadth of work connected to the Wolf Eyes pack should be impressive enough to wade into the mire. It’s not an easy task and the hundreds of tapes, lathe cuts, LPs and other sundry releases make taking in the Midwesterner’s work even more difficult. But paying attention to any randomly selected song (or screed, if that works better) can reveal a properly pieced together pastiche of music. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Unwritten Law/Bottom Lounge

Punk No Comments »


You’re not likely going to walk into a grocery store and hear Unwritten Law playing over the loudspeakers. While Green Day and similarly minded pop-cum-punk groups turned a corner, producing widely palatable works, this SoCal troupe kept to a more hard-rock territory, subverting some of its punkier inclinations over time. Hearing Unwritten Law’s first two discs—the 1994 “Blue Room” and its 1996 follow-up “Oz Factor”—it’s difficult to hear what made the band attractive enough to garner major label attention. Differentiating between a track like “Suzanne” with its plainly sung vocals, hints of harmony and rudimentary pop construction, and then-contemporary groups on Fat Wreck Chords or Epitaph is virtually impossible. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Archers of Loaf/Bottom Lounge

Indie Rock No Comments »


With the voice of a raspy pop star, Eric Bachmann led the North Carolinian Archers of Loaf for the better part of the nineties alternative rock plague. Getting lumped into a handful of well-meaning noiseniks like Pavement didn’t elevate the ensemble to the same vaunted territory as that better-known group. Archers weren’t ever as wild or focused on distorting rock’s language, but early on, Bachmann and company wrenched out some surprising sounds from a traditional rock setup. Read the rest of this entry »