Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

The czars of the show

| December 21, 2011

All the seasoned holiday performers are home with loved ones, frantically tearing through a hundred, identical boxes cuz the damned USB cable for Bobby’s gift has to be somewhere! Instead we have a plate of hard rock including Czar, Fires, and Steel Panther.

When you look at the quality field racing for the Republican nomination, the question arises: is government work so bad that no quality person wants it? Federal, state, and metropolitan department heads, after all, get to be dubbed “czar” by the press — President Obama’s education czar; Illinois’ agriculture czar; Moscow, Idaho’s czar czar. Mayor Emanuel probably has several of his own, though one such local lies out of reach. Czar, whose debut EP for Cracknation was a beauty, command an office whose responsibilities are molten metal riffs, blasts of industrial noise, and reckless, wiry guitar lines. Had the real Russian czars lived to exploit more than 30 years of Industrial Revolution, they would have enjoyed Vertical Mass Grave. (Think we’re kidding? Russian president Dmitry Medvedev is a big Sabbath and Deep Purple fan.) Wreckages are rarely enjoyable, but listening to the band collide and attempt to untangle on “Burnt” has its joys. (Friday@Cobra Lounge with Of Wolves; ManBQue will be cooking and raising donations for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.)

People who bought tix as soon as they heard about the Braid reunion last summer probably thought the band would have their pick of luminous, post-punk openers. That one of them was little-known, Nashville-based Fires probably earned a few second glances. A surprising familiarity probably filled the Metro, however, as both the then-available Angels In The Dark EP and new Echo Sounds reveal a pleasurable taste of Local H. Tracks like “Run,” “Dress Up,” and “Execute” snarl while chasing you with a cigarette lighter, but there’s also a fair amount of strut and pop-sense to “Sent.” (Friday@Empty Bottle with The Tears Of Music And Love (an In Tall Buildings side-project) and The Visitor.)

Pop metal has been low-hanging fruit for comedians since This Is Spinal Tap, flowing through Wayne’s World and Airheads. Even Anthrax lumped the weepy “N.F.B.” onto Attack Of The Killer B’s, weary of having that kind of rock ‘n’ roll stylistically next door. Steel Panther have taken the jokes off screen and recreated Stonehenge to reasonable proportions — and out of giant dildos. Balls Out (Universal Republic), their second album, is another used condom full of spent jokes. But Steel Panther, unlike The Darkness, have two things in their corner: 1) they’re all ringers from many of the same bands they’re sending up, and 2) they know the jokes aren’t funny, but they hit you over the head with them relentlessly until you change your mind. True, the priapic pomp might be relished by a majority of their not so irony-inclined fans, but tracks including “17 Girls In A Row” or “Weenie Ride” push and push until you’re proclaiming their brilliance. (Thursday (29th)@House Of Blues.)

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Featured, Stage Buzz, Weekly

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