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Think about the Future . . .

| October 12, 2011

Odd Future

Odd Future play Chicago's Metro on October 14, 2011

Horrorcore rappers Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All — horrorcore, horrorcore, horrorcore, horrorcore! — have become one of the most fiercely debated, if not exactly listened to, artists since Eminem. And they’re in town Friday, as are New Duncan Imperials’ for their farewell, Primus, Light FM, Double Dagger, and the Biophilac musical.

The condensed bio is that a teen Wu-Tangish collective in south Los Angeles whose RZA figure is Tyler, The Creator, started dropping controversial rhymes — rape, necrophilia, homophobia plus visual cues like swastikas — while skateboarding and loving some social media. The beats are downbeat and minimal, which amplifies the Wu comparison as well as nods to Geto Boys and horrorcore specialists Gravediggaz. Their biggest fans, despite vocal support from P. Diddy (by the way, you know SXSW is over when P. Diddy’s there) and Flying Lotus, are white folks who not only populate high-schools and colleges, but the subscription rolls of Wired and Pitchfork.

Chicago Tribune critic Greg Kot used a full-page article this past summer to challenge Pitchfork‘s booking of Odd Future into its annual music festival, wondering if the imagery in the group’s lyrics meant the festival was tacitly endorsing such hatred and violence. (Despite the eloquence his writers routinely flash, Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber does the size of his intellect no favors.) Emblematic of the academic examinations of OFWGKTA’s words comes this from the Poetry Foundation, which boils them down to this: it’s largely 16-year-old-boy fantasy, but extremely self-aware, futurist, and occasionally profound. (But, alas, not poetry.) Odd Future are perfect for a micro-blogging climate such as ours, where the impulse to broadcast one’s inner dialogue is hard to suppress. Despite persistent, nagging self-doubt, there doesn’t seem to be any aim, a la Eminem, for Odd Future to discern how they relate to the modern world. They render highly detailed visions and hallucinations, but like most dreams, frequently without boundaries or resolution. (Or melodies. They’re still young, but the biggest hindrance to Odd Future’s breakout could be too much Madvillainy.)

It’s these sort of pats-on-the-back that give feminists nightmares. The Kot article spotlighted a sexual-abuse awareness group that handed out fliers at Pitchfork, and whose presence seemed to giftwrap the festival a sort of “How can I be racist? I have black friends!” alibi. But do the rapped machinations of a teenager’s mind and the assurances that such words are only used to map out an undeveloped male psyche constitute justification for the unequivocal pass the media has given Tyler, The Creator? Feminist-leaning pop magazine Bust acknowledges the conflict of liking the beats and wordplay versus the depravity and real-life actions of the group and ultimately votes against them. Johnny Depp apologized this week for comparing photo shoots to being raped, and not only did everyone accept his apology but they ignored the peculiarity that “rape” — Depp would never, in a thousand years, have uttered the “N” word interviewing with Vanity Fair — slips so casually into conversation. There still seems to be very little sympathy for the anxiety rape creates in women and, in the rush to jump on the Odd Future wagon, maybe we’re foolishly spending time dissecting some little boys’ minds instead of our own. (Friday@Metro.)

This weekend’s also the final gigs of longtime local standardbreakers (and not new anymore) New Duncan Imperials. For more than 20 years, they’ve rocked for legal girls with a fervor reminiscent of hero Chuck Berry. Their devotion to straightahead rock jams (also available in punk, glam, and roots colors) sometimes went above and beyond (or over the top), as with the 30-track Sticky (Pravda). But as four-on-the-floor, r’n’r swagger fades from the charts, it’s in the spirits of guys like these that it will always live. (Friday@Beat Kitchen with Pistols At Dawn and The Sentinels; Saturday@Rascal’s in Moline.)

Speaking of the collision of the cartoonish and the angry OFWGKTA, Green Naugahyde (ATO) returns Primus to their sinister best. Les Claypool might still have a race-car driver’s mind (“Now look at the Chevy go/she’s faster than greased-up lightning”), but the ominous creep of “Here Come The Bastards” gives the album its animus. The cover art also seems to suggest where the bad kid in Toy Story may have gotten his start: kid on toy bike . . . kid on toy bike on the ground. (Friday@Congress.)

As Virgin Records prepares its Smashing Pumpkins reissue campaign, Billy Corgan won’t only be reviving his Chicago catalog when his band hits home this weekend. He’ll also be toting revived power-poppers Light FM, who left for Los Angeles a couple years ago. Reconstituted, they return with Buzz Kill City, an endlessly upbeat collection that uses keyboard flourishes to sound modern, while retaining an unabashedly guitar-drive core. “Thrown Against A Wall” recalls Death Cab For Cutie at full throttle, while “$5 Paradise” harks to Sean Lennon and The Rentals. (Friday@Riviera with Smashing Pumpkins and Fancy Space People.)

The continued, unabated machismification of late-’80s indie rock could probably trace it to Baltimore’s Double Dagger. The Baltimore-based trio recently announced it’s splitting up after nine years, and comes to Chicago not only with their Thrill Jockey connection, but a sound not secretly unlike Big Black. Masks EP tracks like “Sleeping In Wolf’s Clothing” snarl over a barebones punk-rock setup, but explode in anthems you could carry to the corner store and back. (Friday@Ultra Lounge with Call Me Lightning and Nones.)

Beginning this Friday and continuing every Thursday through Saturday until November 5th, the Biophiliac Collective brings you “Eye Inside: The Rock-n-Roll Allegory Of Vance Barrett.” The rock opera spins the tale of the doomed talent agent in the title, and the mayhem that ensues when he takes on the inestimable potential of his mysteriously murdered former partner’s son. Though we’re told that Barrett doesn’t end up well, the circus-like atmosphere and bang-on showtunes are what will keep you seated. (Friday@Viaduct Theatre.)

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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