Photo: Dave Law
By Dave Cantor
Maybe there are better known and better respected heavy psych bands out there, but none with as persistent a vision as Britain’s Hawkwind.
The ensemble has counted dozens of participants, with guitarist and songwriter Dave Brock being the most constant stimulus to recording and touring since 1969. Despite the frequent turnover, Hawkwind has attached itself to a sound equal parts komische and UK psychedelia. Other bands continue to mine the troupe’s approach for inspiration, but Brock and company remain a singular entity among festival freaks and would-be psychedelic cultists.
Hawkwind’s 1975 “Warrior on the Edge of Time” is ready for re-release after spending nearly a decade out of print. While the band’s only chart success came several years earlier, on a track helmed by future Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister, “Warrior” exudes sci-fi weirdness and wild riffing tantamount to anything Sabbath was capable of. Maybe all the supplemental electronics were a bit much at the time of its release, but the up-and-down sprint of “Opa-Loka” should be heavy enough for anyone with a reserved appreciation for synthesizers. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: João Wainer
Ever since Carmen Miranda came to the US in the 1930s, Brazil seems to have had an incessant supply of young artists, going from the bossa invasion in the mid-sixties (Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto) to modern voices like Bebel Gilberto, Ceu and Marcio Local—to name a few.
Like Ceu, Luisa Maita hails from the industrial city of Sao Paulo, a metropolis that is home to more than twenty-million people that include both migrants from other parts of the country and also first-, second- and third-generation immigrants from all over the world. Such diversity—and a bustling nightlife—has clearly influenced the region’s pop music. Listening to Maita’s debut CD “Lero-Lero” (Cumbancha), you notice that she takes in that sonic blend to make it her own. Like Ceu, she is heavily influenced by samba, funk and rock. She does, however, seem to rely less on electronics, emerging with a more organic sound that throws back to a more nineties-inspired sound without sounding retro.
For instance, in the title track (which loosely translates as “bullshit”), percussion and electric guitar form a melodic base that is the perfect frame for her soprano, while “Alento” has more of an urban-acoustic feel. She might be well on her way to find an audience stateside, considering her talent and also the history of her many predecessors. (Ernest Barteldes)
November 13 at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 North Kedzie, (773)252-6179, 8pm. $15.
Perhaps you first noticed Seu Jorge in the breathtakingly vibrant and violent film “City of God,” playing peaceful former Brazilian Army sharpshooter turned avenging favela soldier/gang member Knockout Ned. And if not, then most definitely when Jorge emerged next as the David Bowie-covering guitar player aboard Team Zissou’s Belafonte in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.” But unknown to most Americans was the fact that Jorge was already an established musician in his native Brazil, where he survived ghetto life, violence, addiction and homelessness before being taken in by a theater he slept outside of as a teen. It was there that Jorge began his musical training, and he’d later begin honing his winning formula of mixing rock and funk with homegrown samba sounds, releasing two successful albums in Brazil before Wes Anderson exposed his talent to the world. Jorge is now touring behind his latest project, Seu Jorge & Almaz, a collaboration with three masterful musicians: percussionist Pupillo and guitarist Lucio Maia of Nação Zumbi, and bass player Antonio Pinto, the award-winning composer from “City of God.” They’ve just released their self-titled album earlier this week, and true to expectations, the band covers both likely (Michael Jackson’s “Rock With Me”) and unlikely (Kraftwerk’s “The Model”?!), as well as originals, too. Overseen by famed Brazilian producer Mario C. (Beastie Boys), the record carries a deep, soulful and psychedelic shimmy that makes good use of Jorge’s deep baritone voice and talent for arrangement. With his natural charisma and reputation for engaging live shows, tonight, we get to see how “knockout” Ned really is… (Duke Shin)
August 3, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, (773)276-1235, 8pm, $25.
The doo-wop-loving garage-rockers known as King Khan & BBQ Show (aka Arish Khan and Mark Sultan) made headlines a few weeks ago—at least on music blogs—when they and their tour manager were arrested in Kentucky on alleged possession of shrooms. Three missed shows and $3,000 later, the band was back on the road in support of the November-released “Invisible Girl.” It’s highly sexual 1950s-and-1960s-inspired rock with raunchy lyrics that in a live setting encourages the audience to seriously drink and mosh along to the freak show unfurling on stage. Khan, always clad in a unique costume (think a Prussian soldier hat, Peter Pan costume sized for a little girl, hot pants, etc.), was named performer of 2008 by Impose Magazine. Find out why. (Kelley Hecker)
December 2 at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, (773)252-6179. 8pm. $15.
Sunset Rubdown’s first official release, 2005’s “Snake’s Got a Leg,” was a collection of lo-fi EPs multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/genius Spencer Krug recorded in his bedroom during downtime from his various other projects, including Wolf Parade, Fifths of Seven and occasional contributions to his pals in Victoria-based Frog Eyes. Fast-forward to 2009, and the band is a five-piece—Krug, Camilla Wynne Ingr (ex-Pony Up!), Jordan Robson-Cramer (Magic Weapon), Michael Doerksen and Mark Nicol—with three brilliant art-rock records under its belt. The latest, “Dragonslayer,” released in June, retains Krug’s quirky lyrics and unusual arrangements but has found the band a wider audience, and it’s about damn time. This winter, Krug and his Wolf Parade bandmates plan to begin working on another album, so it’ll probably be a while before Sunset Rubdown rolls through town again. (Kelley Hecker)
October 19 at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, (773)252-6179. 8pm. $18.
Bianca and Sierra Casady—better known as the French duo CocoRosie—put out one doozy of an album a few years back, “The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn,” a “concept” record about a “magical transatlantic journey” that I say felt more so like a “journey through a sanitation department, narrated by an incessantly cackling Jack-in-the-box.” Seriously, what a godforsaken album that was, replete with unnecessarily annoying clicks and squeaks (I understand you’re trying to be twee—you don’t need to use that bicycle bell for the eightieth time), perplexing operatic interludes and some of the most intellectually vapid arty lyrics ever sung. For example, gems like “Life is like a roller coaster/It does flips and throws you over” and “You blew through me like bullet holes/Left stains on my sheets and stains on my soul” seem like meaningless blathering. Who knows, maybe the next CocoRosie will successfully transcend genres (freak folk has been the preferred label, but it’s possible the Casadys have pioneered the “art-school drivel” genre) and create the magical journey the girls were aiming for, but I’m willing to wager it’s going to be more layers of bicycle bells. (Andy Seifert)
September 11 at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, (773)509-5019, at 9pm, $20.
Of course the name is bad. It’s like, the worst. You thought Umphrey’s McGee was the worst? You were wrong. This is the worst. Zach Braff couldn’t have written something worse. The problem, the nightmarish dilemma, is that band is actually good. Really good. As far as debuts go, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s self-titled record from earlier this year, on Slumberland Records, flows and fuzzes gorgeously, a shoegazer pop record that sounds like Eugenius and The Jesus and Mary Chain. The vocal harmonies, while put to wildly lovable, simply structured pop melodies, break your heart. The band’s set at Pitchfork this summer was one of the festival’s highlights. Remember when Weezer was good? Like, back in the nineties? That’s what this feels like. The band shows monumental skill while it pieces together one catchy, exciting pop song after another; the future’s as bright as those treble-heavy Fenders being ravaged again and again. So you have to deal with the title. How many good band names are there anyway? Remove all musical associations, and from the list of the names of your favorite bands, try to pick out the monikers that are actually creative without being annoying. Can you? I can’t. After all, The Beatles and The Beach Boys were pretty stupid band names. (Tom Lynch)
September 8 at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, (773)509-5019, at 8pm, $13-$15.
As one of those early afternoon, “nobody knows who we are” acts at this year’s Pitchfork Festival, Brooklyn quartet Cymbals Eat Guitars provided such a solid, spirited set that they ought to be upped to the mid-afternoon, “a few of you know who we are” time slot. The group’s recently released debut album,” Why There Are Mountains,” is a steady noise-rock affair, combining the better elements of Pavement (launching into feedback whenever the listener stops paying attention), Built To Spill (snappy, slightly out-of-tune guitars) and Wilco (smart use of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”’s distant, despondent piano), while slicing in a few jittery hooks amongst a wide palette of sonic ideas. At 20 years old, lead singer Joseph D’Agostino still can’t legally drink, but he’s already penned a critically acclaimed debut record (proving that you don’t necessary need to be inebriated to write records that appeal to indie-music critics). (Andy Seifert)
September 8 at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, (773)509-5019, at 8pm. $13.
Tagged early as a downtempo trailblazer, Bonobo’s success came quickly, with early tracks “Terrapin,” “Kota” and “The Sicilian” being licensed into oblivion for the early twenty-first-century rush to chill out. Apparently all the raving caused an inflated market for club casualties needing soothing, milquetoast compilations to wait out the hazy dusk. But Virgin Mega-trends aside, man-behind-the-simian-moniker Simon Green just kept on keeping on, releasing 2003′s “Dial ‘M’ For Monkey” on the revered Ninja Tune imprint, and proving his music was above the downtempo flotsam and jetsam he shared liner notes with. Hypnotically jazzy, rhythmically complex yet groovy, Bonobo soon evolved out of the studio into a complete live-band show, with multi-instrumentalist Green primarily manning the bass. And with vocalists featured on his Ninja Tune follow-up “Days to Come” (BBC DJ Giles Peterson’s 2006 Worldwide Awards winner for Album of the Year), Bonobo is primed for a bigger stage. He’s reportedly been working on completing the next album, so tonight might offer a glimpse of what the future may hold. Also active on the DJ front, Bonobo will play selector at the afterparty at Sonotheque. His sets tend to be heavier on the thump as he exhumes the broken beats, hip-hop breaks, jazz and funk underneath Bonobo’s strings and vocals and layers of atmosphere. Catch him live, or see him DJ—either way, this monkey shines. (Duke Shin)
July 12 at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, and then at the afterparty at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago.
At this point, it may be difficult to distinguish which Canadian indie-rock projects merit attention, seeing as there are countless side projects stemming from the members of Wolf Parade and The New Pornographers alone. But Wolf Parade frontman Spencer Krug’s most prolific side project, Sunset Rubdown, is an essential listen. The band’s 2007 release, “Random Spirit Lover,” brought exquisite, layered arrangements and persistent Medieval images, a formula furthered in its newest record, “Dragonslayer,” which could very well be the lavish musical sequel to Beowulf. Even though “Dragonslayer” stands as Krug’s most accessible songwriting yet, it still requires a helluva lot of attention to catch every intricate instrumental ornament, or to memorize every movement in a single song. Packing forty-eight minutes into eight tracks, “Dragonslayer” forcibly demands to be consumed as a complete album rather than eight autonomous tracks, and Krug’s antiquated motifs—like the recurring dragons, palaces and sorcerers—further solidifies the record as an epic and daunting album to tackle, but the type that seems more impressive after each listen. Give it a couple of spins, and in the meantime, expect to see Krug and Colin Meloy at your local Renaissance Faire. (Andy Seifert)
July 7 at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, (773)252-6179, 8pm. $18.