Chicago Drive-In

Around Hear: November 2011

| November 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

Local Band Reviews

Bill McAlister & I-57 South

You don’t find many musicians revving-up their professional musical careers after 50, but Bill McAlister is that anomaly. With a voice that’s a dead ringer for Waylon Jennings, McAlister strips his country music down to its simple beauty plus a few outlaw-era blemishes along with his band I-57 South on Illinois Opry. McAlister sounds best on uptempo country-rockers “Between Silver and Grey,” “I-57,” and “Ideas In Your Head,” where his band can really get cookin’ behind his Scotty Moore influenced guitar pickin.’ (www.lanerecords.net)
– David Gedge

As the title implies, Dear Chicago Love Nashville is a winsome mix of Windy City angst and country-inspired soul. The August infuses its earnest, emotionally driven country-inflected pop with deep yearning, and sprightly melodies complement Jacky Dustin’s honest, heartfelt vocals. “Love Me Like A Stranger” is a sultry, but rugged invitation for rough lovin’, where “Things I’d Never Say” lingers with quiet remorse and regretful longing. The August strikes just the right chord with its perfectly balanced pop and twang. (theaugust.com)
– Patrick Conlan

Alt/punk riffs and big vocal harmonies bowl their way through Bruiser‘s Bully For Flux. Not quite punk, yet not alternative, but most of the time rock – the combination of whatever the trio is certainly works here: booming drums, throbbing bass, dirty guitar riffs, a good mix of singing and screaming. Bruiser unleashes eight tracks of unadulterated power and energy to a brackish guitar twang. It’s simple and honest rock ‘n’ roll, done on its own terms. (myspace.com/bruisermusic)
– Kelley Simms

We all know those acts who become venerable institutions, hammering away with consummate musicianship and a loyal following, but never graduating beyond single-A ball. Cheer-Accident personifies that hard-working resiliency. Its latest, No Ifs, Ands Or Dogs, is a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of crazily skewed, quirky pop (“Death By Pollyanna,” “This Is The New That”), and Zappa-esque free-form dissonance (“Sleep,” “Salad Dies”). (www.cheer-accident.com)
– Patrick Conlan

Failed marriages – as common as they are – don’t have too many pop-music faces. Tammy Wynette sweetly cried while serving dinner, and Bob Dylan artfully held himself together. Gaberdine‘s Mark Federighi prefers to come apart on When We Land. His bandmates try to console him with a Tindersticks-meets-National tapestry, but Federighi sings as if his heart has sunk beneath his stomach and can’t distinguish between rage, agony, yearning, or relief. Engrossing, compelling, and a little frightening. (gaberdine.com)
– Steve Forstneger

Tossing GunnelpumpersSymphonie Improvisé blindly into the player and the initial thought is that this is some sort academic, experimental music improv exercise and lo and behold the liner notes inform that the two piece were recorded live at Northwestern’s WNUR studios! Hard to describe the music that’s a little all over the place with tribal beats (played on a “dried frog-liver shake” no less) lots of bowed contrabass, electric guitar, and requisite electronic effects, but the second of two 20-minute explorations ended with a decidedly proggy raga finale. (facebook.com/Gunnelpumpers)
– David C. Eldredge

If you already collect bands on the Bullet Tooth, Southern Lord, and Deathwish rosters, do you really need to bother with Harm’s Way? Shit yeah, you do! Pick any track off Isolation (Closed Casket Activities) – “Scrambled,” Becoming,” or “Slither” – and you’ll be slammed with ferocious, hardcore barking and punishing, metallic guitars. But it’s not just mind-numbing breakdowns sandwiched between sloppy riffs; these songs are composed with roiling dynamic momentum and thrilling catharsis, and Isolation is well worth adding to your hardcore collection. (myspace.com/harmsxway)
– Patrick Conlan

Austin has become a four-letter word to people who regard South By Southwest as an overblown, hipster breeding ground. With a nameplate like How Far To Austin, you might think the band is mocking the hoops it needs to jump through, but the album Goodnight Madison doesn’t reveal any plans to play any Spin games. Instead, the coed, multi-ethnic septet plays astonishingly bright, if a mite professional rock and R&B. Free from posturing and affectation, the tracks portray maturity and instrumental skill with little agenda other than good, clean fun. (howfartoaustin.com)
– Steve Forstneger

For the past five years, Information Superhighway‘s interjected a jazzy blend of progressive rock and ambient pop in the city scene, upping the experimental ante once again come This Is Not The Ending. However, the improvisational, long-winded nature of the EP suggests the foursome might be best to catch in concert, though “Soft And Not Knowing” and “Your Voice – Part II” at least provide a more accessible glimpse of their unconventional talents in the studio. (informationsuperhighway.bandcamp.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

If the “you” who’s the consistent target of KF Jacques‘ every advance, rebuke, and waking thought knows he’s talking to them, things must be pretty uncomfortable. While he holds his stare, Jacques prefers weighty synths peppered by syncopation and the occasional beam of life, and adheres reverently to a midtempo beat to underwrite his introspective flow. Despite the hip-hop influence, this is brokenhearted R&G – the “G” standing for grays. (kfjacques.com)
– Steve Forstneger

Kastasyde positively shreds on its six-song Poisoned, Ripped Off, And Lied To. Although not entirely original, “Despotical” showcases the band’s strength best: meshing crunchy thrash guitar and double-kick drum rumbling with keep-on-your-toes time changes. “Divine Evil,” with anti-religion themes, again uses the dual-vocal approach: guttural, heaving-hitting barks dominate, only to be tempered with Corrosion Of Conformity-style vocals, which actually better complement the band’s instrumentation. (myspace.com/kastasyde2)
– Jason Scales

Veteran psychedelic trio The Luck Of Eden Hall has an eternal obsession for the 1960s, and Butterfly Revolutions Vol. 1. (Vol. 2 will be released soon) could have easily come from that era. There’s plenty of variety amid the 12 mind-expanding tracks, from the energetic “Chrysalide,” with its references to “frolicking in the sky,” to the ornate “Queen Anne’s Lace.” The melodies are consistently inventive, particularly on the high-speed “She Falls Down” and tripped-out “All Her Seasick Parties.” (myspace.com/theluckofedenhall)
– Terrence Flamm

There’s a plaintive beauty to “Anyone,” the kickoff cut on singer/songwriter Carey Ott‘s second full-length CD, Human Heart. Yet that’s simply the first of many earnest emotions expressed on the meaty 20-tune platter. While obvious influences include Peter Gabriel and The Beatles, the Midwest rock melodies – sometimes exultant, at other times poignant – are relentlessly fascinating and fresh. (careyott.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

Female-fronted indie-pop rockers Otter Petter twang, bop, and groove their way through their sophomore release, Nice Night For A Knife Fight. Taking the best parts of Blondie and The Bangles, Otter Petter blend infectious rhythms with sweetly layered vocal harmonies. At times, Amy Anderson will remind you of a young Debbie Harry. The nine delightful pop ditties that grace the CD have an ’80s new wave feel, but with a modern indie/alt edge. (otterpetter.com)
– Kelley Simms

After growing up on the South Side, Doug Rich enlisted in the United States Air Force and completed multiple tours of the Middle East. Upon returning home, he turned toward hip-hop as a way to express myriad emotions, which, alongside influences like 2Pac and Scarface throughout this self-titled excursion, yield a cliché-free, politically charged, and refreshingly positive artistic disposition. (myspace.com/dugrich)
– Andy Argyrakis

For anyone on the receiving end of road rage, St. Vitus Dance‘s self-released debut CD, I Hate The Way You Drive, hits home. The Chicago alt/grunge-rock trio have fused the best parts of Nirvana and Alice In Chains on its 11 tracks, with vocalist Dave Martenson channeling his best Pat Travers, Phil Lynott, and Robin Trower. The opening bassline of “Something Closer” screams Nirvana. “Carry Me Home” is an explosive ’70s rocker with some bluesy, rapid-fire guitar leads. The Trower-ish “Bridgework” merges distortion and melody valiantly. Combining alt rock and ’70s classic rock with some bluesy licks and a sense of humor serves St. Vitus Dance well. (stvitusdance.com)
– Kelley Simms

“Embracing the darkness within” seems to be Sin MG‘s official band motto. By that they mean groove-heavy guitars, arena-rock tunesmithing, and gothic imagery, all centerpieces on single “Vampire,” with its anthem “Let the clouds hide the sun today/hands of a vampire.” B-side “It’s All Over” echoes Stabbing Westward, with a heavier reliance on synth and other electronic embellishments. The two-piece features a melodic singing style that rides convincingly on top of layers of guitar tracks and instrumentation. (sinmg.com)
– Jason Scales

Well ma’am . . . the cryptic metaphors, over-driven bass, and unpolished guitar tone: it looks like you have an indie-rock band. All’s not lost for The SweepsThe Terrible Children LP, however. Judging from the fingerpicking, controlled falsetto, and woven interplay, the band have talents that don’t need to be dumbed down for genre aesthetics. Those, and a kinetic, contagious enthusiasm, are a way out of this common infestation. (facebook.com/TheSweeps)
– Steve Forstneger

Team Band‘s Vodka Thieves is a nonstop party that fuses punk and garage rock with comedic lyrics. Singer Greg Drama makes each song sound spontaneous, whether he’s describing drunken carousing, secret agents, or the cut-throat music biz. On “Not In Love,” he tells the married woman he’s having an affair with he needs cab fare home because, “Last week your husband ran over my bike.” The 007 tribute, “Bond,” and epic “Team Band Fight Song” are particularly clever. (jointeamband.com)
– Terrence Flamm

The mainstream songs on Verona Red‘s Pound EP explore R&B, funk, and hard rock, while emphasizing harmony vocals and energetic guitar playing. “Kitchen Song” is a nostalgic blast that sports authentic doo-wop singing, and there’s more fun to be had on the Brian Setzer-inspired “Big Mean Boogie.” The band gets a bit bogged down on the heavier “Sweet Rose,” but quickly regains momentum with the melodic funk of “Sunday.” (veronared.bandcamp.com)
– Terrence Flamm

“Side One” of Interruptions, a two-part movement from garage-rock noise-purveyors We Repel Each Other, starts with a cacophony of non-distorted guitars that is joined by the busiest drums this side of death metal – the kind of messy pummeling style in which more = more. The vocal styling values mumbling, mental-patient outbursts. “Side Two” is more languid, but still builds to an antic display of guitar-string abuse. Three-track album Sussurra:Canta:Deride is less rambling and more linear in its song arrangement, but equally unhinged: sort of a Sebadoh-on- acid experience. “High Speed Rubbing” channels the band’s energy the best. (werepeleachother.bandcamp.com)
– Jason Scales

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Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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