Chicago Drive-In
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Boys With The Filthy Laugh

| October 9, 2010 | 0 Comments

In antiquity, Helen had the face that launched a thousand ships. In 1996, Belle & Sebastian were the band that wet a thousand beds.

Thumbsucking, mamby-pamby, career grad-student living had a soundtrack (true to form, the band’s genesis arose from a school project) and this Scottish troupe were exceptional at conveying it. Carving notes in bustop benches, spreading rumors among the track team, and nailing images like “We all know you’re soft ’cause we’ve all seen you dancing/We all know you’re hard ’cause we’ve all seen you drinking” made Belle & Sebastian a Smiths for a new generation and as a bonus no one had to put up with Morrissey’s mouth. As the milliennium turned, so did frontman Stuart Murdoch’s sense of what the band should be. Sensing boredom outside and inside with the mopey-Scottish schtick, the band became a buoyant, more danceable affair and really alienated the fully bearded/cardiganed fan segment, but refreshed the ranks in the process.

This fall’s Write About Love (Matador) actually marries the two phases rather successfully, and turns in “I Want The World To Stop,” one of Murdoch’s best efforts since the switch. It is still on the pop bent, however, as the opening line (wanting to dance) and the appearance of Norah Jones attest. Grad students a decade ago were sad sacks because there were jobs but also a paralyzing unwillingness to grow up. Today, there are no jobs, so why not have a little fun? (Monday@Chicago Theatre with Smith Westerns.)

Speaking of seeing the world through thick-rimmed glasses, there are those who’ll have you believe Torche are one of the greatest metal bands around and others who pat the former group on the back and walk away laughing. Two years ago, Meanderthal‘s greatest achievement was getting non-metal people considering metal (this was so long ago that Pitchfork was reviewing black metal records), even though the best way to describe it was Melvins writing a Queens Of The Stone Age record. They’re back this fall with Songs For Singles (Hydra Head), an EP that sails past with little care for changing tempos or adding things like dynamics. Toward the end, things get more interesting (mostly because the pace slows), but in that sense it’s sort of admirable that they’ll keep doing what Torche does, and leave the bickering to the likes of us. (Sunday@Metro with High On Fire, Kylesa, and Droids Attack.)

After AA Bondy dropped Verbena and picked up a singer/songwriter career, he made a huge gamble by ditching his folksy doomsdayisms and chose to a sound that resembles Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker. But given time to work out the kinks, as he did prior to last year’s When The Devil’s Loose (Fat Possum), and he emerged with a plan to grow incrementally, like splashing a rock down and following the concentric ripples. His homebase guise recalls Adams and Rocky Votolato (“On The Moon,” “When The Coal Hits The Fire”), but subtle production touches on “A Slow Parade” and “False River” show he knows the way forward, if not out. (Monday@Schubas with Quieting Syrup.)

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Featured, Stage Buzz, Weekly

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