Celebrating the demise of something seems counterintuitive and anti-climatic, but Plastic Crimewave Sound isn’t just some buncha Chicago jerks; it’s these Chicago jerks, fronted by the ever-mustachioed Plastic Crimewave. Sure, the ridiculous heights of recording with Ya Ho Wah 13’s Djin Aquarian likely aren’t forthcoming, but there are scant dudes who can say they’ve even had the opportunity to perform with that sub-terra legend. Whatever counted as the troupe’s regular lineup apparently disintegrated sometime last spring, the travails of everyday life being cited as the main reason. You know, babies and marriage? All this PCS hoopla, though, surrounds the group’s (probable) final recording, a tape-only affair being issued through an imprint helmed by Running’s bassist. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s easy to be lulled into some sense of expectation on “Back to Land,” Wooden Shjips’ fourth full-length album, due out in November. And while Ripley Johnson and company have reeled in some of their long-winded rambling, there’s still not a wealth of focus here. That’s the point, though. Recorded in Portland, not the band’s Bay-area birthplace, “Land” brims with a rough-hewn pop sensibility, deterred only by Johnson’s fuzzy guitar lines. But even those have been opened up, giving listeners the opportunity to, you know, kinda hear what’s going on, instead of encountering an indecipherable wall of scuzz. Still, he doesn’t grant easy access—the solo on “Ghouls” being sheathed in noise, any sense of its melodic intentions disappeared behind wah-wah blurs. What enables the band to continue shoving the same formula into disc after disc, though, are Johnson’s leads remaining mysterious and shiftless, even if some songs strive for structure. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Nick Helderman
By Dave Cantor
Camped out at the Shadow Shoppe, a recording studio doubling as a residence in an industrial area near Amsterdam, Jacco Gardner’s been burrowing into an insular universe.
It’s a place the multi-instrumentalist has been exploring for almost a third of his life. And it’s been fully realized, in musical terms, as “Cabinet of Curiosities,” which Chicago’s Trouble in Mind issued Stateside earlier this year.
With the album’s release, Gardner’s granted listeners access to a collection of vivid “fairytales,” as he calls them, each recorded on his own at the Shoppe, save for the disc’s more complicated drumming. The work’s been cobbled together over the last eight years, drawing from the more baroque moments of sixties pop music. There aren’t any distinct hints of contemporary Europe in Gardner’s songs, and an unknowing listener could easily mistake just about anything “Cabinet” offers as a selection from the first psychedelic era. It’s more than mere retread, though—it’s a twenty-four-year old’s imagination splayed out over twelve tracks. But “Cabinet” would warrant notoriety even if Gardner hadn’t played guitar, bass, keys and a variety of synthesizers.
Despite his ostensible squatting, his homeland Holland has embraced “Cabinet,” sending Gardner on a series of TV appearances and performances at venues that would overwhelm U.S. musicians of comparable popularity over here. 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 »
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 »
Credit: Alison Wonderland
By Dave Cantor
He says the album’s recording wasn’t hijacked back in 1968. But if Nick Garrie didn’t think “The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas” existed in bastardized form, he likely wouldn’t be traversing the Atlantic Ocean to set it all right.
Written during fits and spurts of studying, busking and general hoboism, Garrie worked up a clutch of folk songs and intended to set the compendium to tape. Solo: just him and a guitar. He’d landed a deal with a French imprint to record and issue the disc. And everything was cued up, ready to swing. Then the singer showed up at the appointed studio, and there was a fifty-six-piece orchestra awaiting his arrival, prepared to accompany him on twelve tracks that would eventually become “Stanislas.”
What resulted is a surprisingly facile and startlingly varied work, with tunes arranged by Eddie Vartan. It’s just that no one would confuse “Stanislas” with a folk album. Garrie says Vartan did his best. But from the guitarist’s remark, it’s clear the finished product never represented what was kicking around in his head. Read the rest of this entry »
Cover by Colin Denney
Music is alive and well and living in Chicago.
While that once might have meant records and radio and bands being signed to major labels, it’s a much more complex score these days, with artists and venues more entrepreneurial than ever. But at the core is the shift in emphasis from recorded to live music, and it’s a change that’s made Chicago a town of festivals, from the city’s bedrock blues, jazz, gospel and world music festivals, to Lollapalooza and Pitchfork, to the new electronic dance music festivals—Spring Awakening, Wavefront and North Coast—as well as the explosive growth of an old one, the Chosen Few DJs Picnic. With these shifts, the players are changing too; since we last made this list of the behind-the-scenesters, the power list if you will, most of the list has changed. This year’s forty-five include twenty-six folks who were not on the list that last time in 2009. (Brian Hieggelke)
Music 45 was written by Brian Hieggelke, Dennis Polkow and Kenneth Preski, with additional contributions by Dave Cantor, Keidra Chaney, Dylan Peterson, John Wilmes and B. David Zarley. See previous years here. 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 »
Since Codeine’s back catalog was given the Numero Group once over, it’s unsurprising to see Come crop up on the summer’s list of almost-forgotten bands from the 1990s reuniting for a tour. Chris Brokaw contributed drums to each of those ensembles, but it’s Thalia Zedek who’s the fulcrum upon which Come swings. There’s a dirty, all-knowing quality to her voice, which at various times has been connected to Live Skull and several other noisy rock acts. Regardless of the band’s legacy, what makes the whole thing amusing is that the performance is almost guaranteed to meet with relative critical acceptance, while Courtney Love kicks around in faux-stardom, being chastised and called a hack. No one’s gonna disagree with that critique, but hearing Zedek go in on “Mercury Falls,” from Come’s 1994 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” summons another performance. Read the rest of this entry »
By Dave Cantor
The greatest myths are good stories. And tales behind the discovery of any band are just decent fiction—or at least realities tweaked well enough to conjure up towering imagery.
Sweden’s Goat isn’t issuing its Stateside debut because of outstanding European festival performances but rather because a band it shares practice space with just shot a video over to Chris Reeder, UK’s Rocket Recordings honcho, and he dug it. That’s only part of the story, though.
“Over the course of the next few months when we were putting the seven-inch together, the band themselves started communicating with us,” Reeder says about his earliest digital interactions with the Swedes. “Then we didn’t really hear anything else from them until about May … when out of the blue ‘World Music,’ all finished and mastered, landed in our inbox.” Read the rest of this entry »