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The trouble with . . .

| February 7, 2012

A quartet of acts traipsing through Chicago within the week all dangle their feet over the brink of Complete, Utter Mistake. Do Lost Lander, Scale The Summit, Wim, and Foxy Shazam survive?

Singer/songwriters seem like introverts as it is, but the development of home-recording equipment has enticed a frothy stein of them to board up in their bedrooms and craft underwater opuses. The problem with this — assuming they get their work professionally mixed and mastered — is the homespun arrangements are often rendered arbitrarily, and stuck to a particular song simply because the effort was put in, and shit-no it’s just going to sit unused. Lost Lander, a.k.a. Matt Sheehy, tenuously does this balancing act on DRRT, fully immersed in his compositions but standing in the way of some of them. Tracks like “Cold Feet,” “Afraid Of Summer,” and “Gossamer” branch out of their stylistic underpinnings to become vibrant, individual slices integral to the album’s fabric. But “Kangaroo” and “Your Name Is A Fire” suffer the opposite: restrained by the ornamentation when they should really just rock the fuck out. (Thursday@Panchos with Exit Ghost and Jack & Ace.)

Speaking of inhibitions, something about instru-metal bands like Pelican and Russian Circles has sometimes felt withheld. The riffs are meaty, the playing ambitious and professional, but maybe something suppressed is what really fuels their crescendos and climaxes. Scale The Summit deal in similarly winding, post-rocky terrain, but they also aren’t shy about a little pizzazz. The Houston-based quartet is fronted by a pair of guitarists who worship John Petrucci, and went to great pains to build their own guitars from scratch. The Collective tracks like “Secret Earth” take some care not to be overrun by the stampeding solos, but know that music doesn’t really live unless it feels as if it might lose control. (Thursday@Reggies Rock with Elitist, Centaurus, and Burn The Remains.)

More than anything Radiohead did, the post-millennial flood of mamby-pamby British bands can be traced to Travis’ The Man Who. That Coldplay and Snow Patrol could get away with it while Travis were stuck with Keane, Starsailor, and Embrace was little consolation, as was the band’s own diminishing returns. Wim come in with a fresher outlook, not promising much by way of innovation but cutting through to the emotional core on their self-titled Modular debut. The Australians come close to that power of Travis’ “As You Are,” or Andy Dunlop’s underrated solo on “Writing To Reach You.” There are also shades of the Boo Radleys, Rufus Wainwright, and Sufjan Stevens, but their dignified approach to resurrecting a broken lineage is what resonates most. (Friday@Lincoln Hall with Other Lives.)

It’s not Foxy Shazam‘s fault that Queen’s 40th anniversary was last year, or that it would be met with a full catalog reissue campaign. But with it fresh in the memory, this winter’s The Church Of Rock And Roll feels especially hamfisted. With valiant attempts at recreating the spirit of Queen, Cincy’s Shazam don’t have the talent to look past impersonation. (Saturday@Metro with The Darkness.)

— Steve Forstneger

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