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Local CD Reviews

| August 29, 2006

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Absolutely Perfect deliver an amalgam of lo-fi, guitar-driven rock. With slick, melodic touches such as the agile guitar leads reminiscent of Pretty Girls Make Graves, on “4crease,” and huge, angular riffs on “Burner” and “Ghetto Fabulous,” they show off technical virtuosity that suits their hard rock. Surprisingly, they also toss in phrases of acoustic guitar jangle, adding some harmonic complexity. The lyrics are typically bland, but delivered with the expected power and enthusiasm. (
– Patrick Conlan

Guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Robert Anthony is a highly skilled musician and combines the darker side of classic rock with hypnotic beats on his latest release, Virtual Reality. He has strong Queensrÿche and Pink Floyd influences, and his songs are trance-inducing and cool. Cue up the title track and “Sniper,” after nightfall of course, to get a glimpse. (
– Mike O’Cull

If you’re going to name your band Bruiser, your music needs to back up the moniker. Having ex-Local H skinsman Joe Daniels behind the kit is a good start but not enough for this group. Bassist Mark Mills and guitarist Daniel Stock share lead vocal duties on the band’s self-titled full-length, but neither of their styles are especially distinguishable, like the music itself. Switching between the angsty alt-rock of “Wake” and the art punk of “Store Bought Story,” Bruiser never sound weak, just anonymous. (
– Trevor Fisher

Along with releasing his own music, saxophonist Frank Catalano has played with a slew of big names from Tony Bennett to Charles Earland to Destiny’s Child. Mighty Burner, this 28-year-old’s latest album, consists of six tracks recorded live at Chicago’s The Green Mill and Edgewater Lounge. Catalano plays with reckless abandon, choosing to show off his nasty chops and danceability rather than any songwriting skill. (
– Joseph Simek

Vocalist/guitarist Luke LeFevre gives Chett a radio-friendly appeal, particularly on “Paper Doll,” the manic opening track on Swell. The melodic “Fatalism” is another showcase for LeFevre and fellow guitarist Chris Branstiter; plus it’s the best song ever written about a grasshopper being fed to a snake. Other tracks tend to have ponderous lyrics and similar-sounding arrangements. A lighter touch works well for the spiritual ballad, “Last Days.” (
– Terence Flamm

It would be easy to dismiss Cornmeal as just another cornpone country act, but there’s something genuinely infectious about their bluegrass banter. Feet First is a toe-tapping, hand-clapping, finger-snapping tour de force with fantastic fiddling and solid lyrics on such tunes as “Edge Of The World” and “Hillbilly Ride.” The dozen ditties also journey into roots rock and jam territory, forming a truly captivating collection. Yee-haw! (
– Jeff Berkwits

Sima Cunningham sounds well beyond her mere 16 years of age, favoring the likes of Bright Eyes and Wilco much more than her peers’ probable appreciation of Jessica Simpson and Pink. The self-taught guitarist and pianist demonstrates significant promise on the earthy, six-track Squeeze, though her smoky voice could stand refinement at times and the production would’ve been better in a beefed up format. (
– Andy Argyrakis

Local metal merchants Deficit come across as a pairing of Slayer and Lamb Of God on the Eternal War EP, which isn’t too shabby considering the band members are between 15 and 19-years old. The band display some serious instrumental chops and could surely hang on stages with bands of any age or status. (
– Mike O’Cull

Hard rockin’ in a style that would do Rob Zombie and Nashville Pussy proud, Drench are a five-piece with a vocalist who could bring any man within earshot to his knees. Although sometimes bordering cheesy on tracks such as “Beautiful,” the lead cut, “Texas,” is the band at their absolute best. (
– Dean Ramos

Given its exquisitely elegant playing and production, it’s hard to believe Out Of Nowhere marks jazz guitarist Harold Fethe‘s recording debut. Following a quarter-century career as a biotech executive, Fethe has teamed with 87-year-old violinist Johnny Frigo and respected veteran keyboard and bass players Joe Vito and Jim Cox, respectively, to produce a stellar selection of standards in a whole new light. Despite a small ensemble sound that recalls Django Reinhardt, one gets a sense of excitement akin to discovering an otherwise well-known classic for the very first time. The occasional vocals of Joanie Pallato are a further added plus. (
– David C. Eldredge

This indie supergroup includes former and current members of Poi Dog Pondering, The New Duncan Imperials, and The Krinkles, but together The Goldstars yield an aggressive, garage rock onslaught. Purple Girlfriend is a ballsy, bawdy excursion through the trashy guitars of “D.M.V.” and “Angry Eyes,” while adding a welcome coat of psychedelic paint come “She’s Late” and “No Friend Of Mine.” (
– Andy Argyrakis

The tight ensemble playing and production values of Eddie Hendrickson And The Make Believe on Only A Dream belie its “debut” status. The quartet’s self-defined “rock fusion” is more a cross of jam band and prog rock than the jazz/rock of such ilk, sounding like the welcome offspring of a union between vintage Allman Brothers and Gentle Giant. But while pedestrian lyrics, vocals, and songwriting reveal the lack of edge their forbears had this is definitely worth attention. (
– David C. Eldredge

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Category: Around Hear, Monthly

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  1. Andy Argyrakis:

    I want to thank you for taking time to review Sima Cunningham’s CD “Squeeze”. I wish that you had mentioned that it was produced by Brian Deck, one of the leading indie produccers in Chicago.

    Sima and her band are performing at the Cabaret Metro on November 19th. Hope you can make it. I think you’ll be impressed by her live show.