Chicago Drive-In

Around Hear: October 2010

| October 1, 2010 | 0 Comments

Local Band Reviews

Algernon‘s intentions of blending hippie grooves with kraut rock, art punk, and avant-garde jazz are certainly admirable, but the results throughout the entirely instrumental Ghost Surveillance are scattered at best. Instead of honing on a sound or two and going for broke, the duo dips its toes into a curiosity and then briskly transitions to the next without providing any resolution. (www.myspace.com/algernonmusic)
– Andy Argyrakis

Multi-faceted singer/songwriter Andrea Amos plays keyboards, drums, and violin on Tunnel Vision, backed by a full band. Her voice is well suited to breezy jazz tunes like “Off Limits,” but she also explores light rock and funk as well. The heartfelt torch song “Move On” is particularly impressive, while the soulful rock of “Won’t Change” wisely warns against staying in a doomed relationship. (www.myspace.com/andreaamos)
– Terrence Flamm

Founder of famed local landmark the Velvet Lounge, sax virtuoso Fred Anderson passed away last June. Black Horn Long Gone serves in part as his legacy. Recorded in 1993 but released only a few months prior to his death, the CD is a labor of love filled with eight improvisational jams. While cuts like “Our Theme” and “Three On Two” are highlights, free-jazz fans are sure to savor every note. (www.chicagosound.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

Belying the aggressive title and artwork, Attack Time actually plays polite, adult-oriented, pop-folk that’s gracefully easy-going. The acoustic guitar snaps out crisp melodies and the nimble percussion adds colorful accent to the folksy charm of “Complete.” The supple harmony of “Magic Moments” is soft and comforting, like a favorite lounge chair; and if you’ve never heard a morin khuur, check out “First Watch” to experience its mesmerizing tone. (www.myspace.com/attacktime)
– Patrick Conlan

By far, “In Vain” is probably the best track on Dan DeRamosFragile. While other tracks resemble post-grunge, alt-rock, and’80s pop, despite excellent guitars and a few Pete Yorn-ish moments, this 10-track collection is a tad dull. Noticeably more authentic and sincere than most of your standard adult-contemporary fare, it could still benefit from a few more personalized touches as opposed to replicating much of what has come before. (www.myspace.com/danderamos)
– Dean Ramos

If a band that’s virtually unknown can still be considered legendary, Fuckface is that band. Experimental and confrontational, Fuckface created one searing album of raw, unbridled chaos, riddled with thundering rhythms and scraping guitars, that has never been released – until now. “Blood River” and “L.A. Song” crackle with the deafening pounding of three drummers who didn’t use cymbals or snares, and a snarling guitar straining to cut through the mix. (www.latestflame.com)
– Patrick Conlan

Who knew Jared Grabb had a softer side? Formerly of Chicago hard-rock acts Scouts Honor and The Forecast, he has traded in his ferocious guitar riffs and angst-filled vocals for banjo, mandolin, and a laid-back vibe. Where Do You Hide Your Love Songs is full of thoughtful lyrics and melodies, and reveals more of the depth of his talent, but in the end, it doesn’t really go anywhere Wilco or Gaslight Anthem hasn’t already gone before. (www.jaredgrabb.com)
– Carter Moss

Perhaps best known as drummer for The Girls and Jonny Polonsky, Jason Batchko is, in actuality, a multi-talented and instrumentalist artist whose DIY effort under the moniker Integrated Cookbook serves up a quirkily compelling set of original songs that are, at times, whimsical (“Lunchwagon”), romantic (“Love Last Night”), classically railroadin’ bluesy (“Midnight Train”), low-life lamenting (“Old Detroit”), and even raging (“Millionaire’s Son”) – without ever musically repeating itself. With a solid, Dylanesque Midwest twang, Batchko’s voice is well-suited to his eclectic material and solid arrangements, making his first solo effort a most unexpectedly satisfying listening feast and, one hopes, a recipe to success. (www.myspace.com/integratedcookbook)
– David C. Eldredge

Just when it seems that Jet W. Lee has locked into a hard-hitting combination of punk and heavy metal on its Who Shall Remain Shameless CD, the trio unveils the complex “Starry State Of Mind,” which features harmonica and ringing guitars. The lighter “When Beauty Met The Blues” adds another shade to Jet W. Lee’s unpredictable but engaging music. (www.jetwlee.com)
– Terrence Flamm

Renoir To Hemingway: A Retrospective covers the first decade of Coventry Jones‘ career with 19 tracks, most of them previously unreleased. Hailing from Milwaukee, Jones’ folksy singer/songwriter vibe is more James Taylor than Jack Johnson, and while most of his songs settle comfortably into the old-school country vein, the electric guitar-driven “Dark Horse Named Faith” and “Planet Jimi” show Jones letting his rock out – something he’ll hopefully do more often in his next decade. (www.coventryjones.com)
– Carter Moss

Fronted by Tshurhard Chivas and Havanah Moxie, Kinky Notti puts all the wide-ranging sounds of Chicago through a hip-hop filter on its Succomb debut to deliver some of the sassiest, most seductive and sensuous urban-inflected alternative pop music since, oh, say, Prince at his dirty-minded love-sexiest best. Minor quibble aside – just wanted to hear more variations in tempo – “Kink Not” may be the best flavor out of Chicago since “House.” (www.kinkynotti.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Having survived a horrific accident that totaled their van and scuttled their first ever East Coast tour, power trio Mass Shivers return a year later with Contoured Heat. True to past recorded form (rather than classic metal-edged arena-rock history would lead one to expect from such a configuration), the guys make good use of pedals, sustain, and other studio effects to carve a sound that’s more fusion/prog-like over its 10-cut reach. Thankfully, the Shivers avoid the blatant excess and self-indulgent pitfalls inherent in such genre flirtations; but while their ambitious, out-of-the-box musical aspirations are interesting, it doesn’t necessarily prevent an equally inherent redundancy of sound and structure. (www.massshivers.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Counting former members of Teen Idols and Plain White T’s, it’s no surprise that ScissorsYou Can Make It Dangerous is a pop-punk record that any fan of the genre could enjoy. That said, trite songs and clichés creep up often, such as on “Say It Again,” “Us And Our Old Lady,” and “Suddenly.” Regardless, this is a solid effort from a band with a distinguished pedigree. (www.thescissors.com)
– Dean Ramos

What happens when a quartet of decent rockers outgrow their garage? Side Of Beef answer with Choice Cuts. “Summertime Sunday” and “Live My Life” are satisfactory slabs of Grade-A funk-infused power, with the three other selections supplying more straightforward, Midwestern rock grooves. Their self-described “meaty” sound remains a mite rare, but it shouldn’t be long before their at-the-moment middling melodies become well done. (www.myspace.com/sideofbeefband)
– Jeff Berkwits

Calling yourself an American rebel over a canned blues-rock riff isn’t the most stirring way to begin an EP, though Sugar Pusher (Lauren Ritchie and Matthew Kerr) eventually settle on a truer identity. With the Live At The Suga Shack EP, the duo occasionally strive for some four-on-the-floor attitude, but ultimately Ritchie’s feel for light funk gives the outing an adult-contemporary flair. If Kerr can tone down his guitar fills and solos and play for the song, it might prove a fruitful direction. (www.sugarpusher.net)
– Steve Forstneger

Tommy & Ptolemy‘s comedic trip-hop collection, High School Senior Moment, brings Cheech & Chong’s 1970s gem “Sister Mary Elephant (SHUDD-UP!)” to mind, save instead of stoner humor, this duo aim squarely at the socio/politico satiric jugular, as their re-take on the similar era-ed Last Poets’ “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” makes abundantly clear. While the title cut’s notion is clever, its – along with the rest of the material’s – irony and gadget/knob turnings are so obviously self-evident as to have very long shelf life. (www.myspace.com/tommyptolemy)
– David C. Eldredge

DeKalb’s 29 Needles not only sound like a jigsaw puzzle, but a number of them that have been haphazardly dumped into one box. The dominant tones on their self-titled EP are Pantera and Korn, and when they concentrate on the pulverizing assault of the former they brook no arguments. But a tone-deaf co-vocalist, boilerplate “I’m screwed up/you screwed me up” diatribes, and canned synth effects ensnarl what should be a simple formula. (wwww.myspace.com/twentynineneedlesmusic)
– Steve Forstneger

The male/female harmony mix that drives Unicycle Loves You‘s Mirror, Mirror (Highwheel) is likely to earn instant comparisons to the like-minded New Pornographers. The group also demonstrates everything from an affinity for the straight-up rockin’ ’60s to the psychedelic era that followed and plenty of modern indie-rock influence, ensuring a cross-cultural swath of smartly sculpted songs. (www.myspace.com/unicycle)
–Andy Argyrakis

We Drive Yeah infuses its hard-hitting debut, Cult Classic, with ambitious arrangements and inventive harmonies. At times, the sound is a little too commercial, but it’s hard to complain about fast-paced gems like “Fruit Of Her Heart,” especially when lead vocalist/guitarist Chris Lamb is channeling The Cure’s Robert Smith. The band is even more impressive on the subtle “Lifebound” and “Class Action Hero,” which bring to mind the early days of English punk. (www.wedriveyeah.com)
– Terrence Flamm

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Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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