Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

This is not a photoshopped mix of Neil Young & Grace Slick

| July 27, 2011

It’s Richard Buckner. And he, Walter Meego, and Alkaline Trio have shows coming up that will take us through the unveiling of our next issue!

Some 15 years ago, Richard Buckner was a major-label country singer with a voice that broke as often as an 11-year-old girl’s heart. Albums like Devotion & Doubt were thorns in the side of critics who derided all country as assembly-line pop-rock, leering and epic tales of heartbreak that felt delightfully out of place. Buckner tired of that pigeonhole quickly, however, and went about setting century-old texts to music and then, perhaps predictably, going electric. His albums were Dorian Gray, however, and his appearance that of the mirror, and as Buckner runs a similar circuit as, say, Damien Jurado, the scars seem to widen and deepen. His latest album, Our Blood (Merge), doesn’t show any abatement in the crisis. Though at its core it’s the work of an Americana singer/songwriter consumed with self-doubt and an inability to love correctly, he invites further dissonance with a gauzy layer of guitar harmonics and the aural equivalent of a spiderweb that just had a vacuum bag opened downwind. Opening for Sebadoh this past spring, he was a hypnotic presence, nodding like the exterior piston on an old locomotive. Our Blood won’t see him deviate from that. (Friday@Schubas with Cameron McGill.)

Just as Justice and Phoenix started their ascents, Chicago seemed to have their own entry primed with Walter Meego. The duo had effortlessly melded a rock/dance hybrid in Voyager, including finger-tapped guitar solos over crushing synths. That being three years ago, clearly it’s time to move on. The band have been working hard to find proper distribution for Wondervalley, which has been streaming from their site for some time and sees them stepping off the dancefloor, but not necessarily taking things down a notch. The album is then something akin to New Order, ’80s Bowie, or even the more experimental trials of Air, completely untethered from binding trends. (Saturday@Double Door with Moneypenny and Craig Williams.)

Changing your sound will inevitably invite complaints, which shouldn’t matter much as long as the artist maintains the ability to surprise themselves. Suffice it to say, Alkaline Trio‘s Damnesia (Epitaph) could be seen coming from miles away. Pop-punk went through an acoustic phase about a decade ago, and to a degree it hasn’t stopped. Former locals Alk3 planted seeds of their own — Matt Skiba once told IE that “Blue In The Face” was recorded acoustically because they couldn’t make it work another way — which seems a bit jive now that it’s been re-recorded (acoustically) to fit in with a batch of electric-cum-acoustic versions of catalog favorites. It’ll certainly do well to promote bassist Dan Andriano‘s upcoming solo album, but if anything, Damnesia underscores the band’s fraught relationship with drummers. While it’s interesting to hear some of the reinventions (“Private Eye,” “This Could Be Love”), the overwrought “Radio” belies a band more successful than this. (Monday/Tuesday@Metro with Smoking Popes and River City Extension.)

Finally, a quick shout-out to Purple Apple. Underage, all-girl acts aren’t exactly without precedent (where fore art thou, Feaze?), and throwing in a babysitter seems like a pander. But rock the girls do, and they deserve this happy-hour set next weekend. (August 4th@Hideout (6 p.m.).)

— Steve Forstneger

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