The List, August 13-19, 2009 

Critics' Choices and other notable concerts: the Breeders, Nebula, Lucero, Nobunny, Otto, and more




The Breeders
Nebula, The Entrance Band
Skygreen Leopards


Harvey Danger
Charles Rumback
Silk Flowers




Otto, Nomo


Dr. Manhattan


click to enlarge Breeders - CHRIS GLASS
  • Breeders
  • Chris Glass

BREEDERS The Breeders' 1993 breakthrough album, Last Splash, is one of the odder alt-rock records to cross over into the mainstream during the heady days following the grunge explosion—for every nugget of sugar-high guitar pop like "Cannonball" or "Divine Hammer" there's a piece of spacey abstraction like "Mad Lucas" or "I Just Wanna Get Along." Last Splash's squirrelly strangeness set Kim Deal and company apart from the 120 Minutes pack and helped the Breeders avoid getting dismissed as one-hit wonders, even though technically that's still what they are. This unpretentious artsy streak wasn't much evident in Deal's work (with the Amps and elsewhere) during the Breeders' late-90s hiatus or in their 2002 comeback album, Title TK, but on last year's Mountain Battles (4AD) it's definitely back—songs like the lushly reverbed "Overglazed" and the choppy "German Studies" combine the experimental and the catchy the way their best classic material did, and the record zigs and zags from straight-up earwormy tunes into partsy, discontinuous arrangements, nonstandard time signatures, and atmospherics almost worthy of post-rock. This spring's self-released Fate to Fatal EP ups the quirk with the droning ballad "The Last Time" (featuring vocals from Mark Lanegan) and an extremely slanted cover of Bob Marley's "Chances Are" that strips out the soul in favor of stiff, sparsely plucked acoustic guitar and Kim and Kelley Deal's creepy close harmonies. Whispertown 2000 opens. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160, $22, $20 in advance. —Miles Raymer

NEBULA, THE ENTRANCE BAND Heavy Psych (Tee Pee) is NEBULA's first proper release since 2006's Apollo and the first without founding drummer Ruben Romano, who's been with singer-guitarist Eddie Glass since their Fu Manchu days—he's been replaced by Rob Oswald, formerly of Karma to Burn and Mondo Generator. (At least they've stopped playing musical chairs with bassists—Tom Davies has been aboard since '04.) What difference does it make in the definitive stoner-rock trio's sound? Not much. The inspiration they obviously don't care to waste on their album titles gets channeled instead into period-perfect early-70s lazy-pothead comfy-chair boogie and ecstatic explosions of flanged-out guitar designed to turn your skull inside out through your headphones. Glass's wailing vocals (think Geddy Lee on ludes) add a touch of nervous energy to this bubbly brew, and there are even a few sly jokes—you'll never convince me that isn't a winking Isaac Hayes rip-off in "The Dagger" or a Zeppelin parody in the intro to "Dream Submarine." Heavy Psych isn't gonna raise any eyebrows, but it's expertly engineered to hit certain tried-and-true pleasure centers—it's probably as close as you can get to soaking your brain stem in a hot tub. —Monica Kendrick

A few years ago a bunch of scruffy Los Angelenos, apparently irritated by their city's image as the Land of the Heavily Tanned Douche, started growing their hair out, writing fuzzy, druggy folk-rock, and generally doing everything they could to remind people of Laurel Canyon's hippie heyday. Among the more distinguished groups to arise from this collective impulse is THE ENTRANCE BAND, originally the solo project of guitarist and singer Guy Blakeslee (at which time it was usually just called "Entrance") but now a steady trio with former Zwan bassist Paz Lenchantin and onetime Chicagoan Derek James on drums. On their new self-titled album for Ecstatic Peace, they leave behind Blakeslee's old Dylan-by-way-of-Doctor-Strange astral folk in favor of a sound that combines psychedelic voyaging with burly but catchy guitar rock and comes out sounding something like an alternate-universe jam between Buffalo Springfield and the Doors. —Miles Raymer

Nebula headlines; the Entrance Band, the Velcro Lewis Group, and White Mystery open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $15.

SKYGREEN LEOPARDS On their latest album, Gorgeous Johnny (Jagjaguwar), the Bay Area combo anchored by Donovan Quinn and Glenn Donaldson—part of the outre psych-folk collective Jewelled Antler—play parched, melancholy 60s-style acoustic pop that's straightforward and focused despite its loose, hazy sound. Guitars jangle over shambling, shuffling percussion, and swelling organ and tinkling piano occasionally color the arid soundscape—the Skygreen Leopards' sound suggests a back-country American version of Swell Maps—but the centerpiece of the songs is Quinn's wobbly, wispy singing. It's an acquired taste if you're picky about intonation, but his gentle, druggy melodies are consistently beguiling. Zelienople opens. 9:30 PM, Whistler, 2421 N. Milwaukee, 773-227-3530. —Peter Margasak


HARVEY DANGER Despite a 15-year career and three pretty great, literate records, Seattle's Harvey Danger have always been known as a one-hit band—and now that they've announced their imiminent but amicable demise, it looks like the indelible 1998 single "Flagpole Sitta" will serve as the epitaph for this fun, clever pop-rock group. Harvey Danger are beginning their brief bid-you-adieu tour here, and in case you haven't stayed caught up with the band, their last album, 2005's Little by Little... (Kill Rock Stars), is still available as a pay-whatchoo-want download on their Web site. So Many Dynamos open both shows; Sleepy Kitty plays first on the late show only. 7 and 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $14 (late show sold out), 18+. —Jessica Hopper

LUCERO With their ringing guitar riffs, loose-jointed rhythms, and desperate, manic-depressive lyrics, all drenched in the romantic kind of drunken hopelessness, these Memphis boys have drawn not-entirely-implausible comparisons to the Replacements. Ben Nichols's croaking holler—fried-out but insistently game—does sound a bit like Paul Westerberg's, but honestly when I first heard Lucero my reaction was, "Cool! Bruce Springsteen got his balls back! And, uh, listened to a lot of Drive-By Truckers records and started a punk band!" As befits their tragic stance—they borrow some classic bathing-in-pain poses from old-fashioned country—they've had bad business luck, and have been putting out their records themselves since a label folded under them in 2004. But last year they signed with Universal Republic, a happy turn of events that parallels a change in the overall mood of their music. These days it feels less like sodden, self-pitying crack-of-dawn catatonia and more like first-buzz-of-the-night euphoria—though their self-titled 2001 debut is highly contraindicated for listeners experiencing suicidal ideation, a couple of cuts off the forthcoming 1372 Overton Park recall the Pogues' "Sunny Side of the Street" vividly enough to induce pogoing. These United States open. See also Sunday. 8 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $15. —Ann Sterzinger

click to enlarge Nobunny - CHRIS ANDERSON

NOBUNNY With microphone in hand and scraggly rabbit mask on face, Nobunny—the nom de hasenpfeffer of Chicago native Justin Champlain, formerly of Tucson and now based in the Bay Area—serves as a reminder to jaded and overwhelmed 21st-century audiences that, at the end of the day, the best rock 'n' roll is basically dancing music for zitty teenagers with or near boners. His songs draw on 50s and 60s novelty records, poppy 70s punk like Hubble Bubble and the Ramones, and 90s Rip Off Records garage trash, and though that jumble of influences might seem messier than a Tastee-Freez food fight, when you put it all together it works like a stupidly brilliant Mad magazine Fold-In, creating a single simple message—as Spinal Tap keyboardist Viv Savage put it, "Have a good time, all the time." Last year's LP for 1-2-3-4 Go! Records, Love Visions (the title's a gentle poke at Jay Reatard's Blood Visions), is a no-fi masterpiece, a bubblegum banana split of 4AM boogaloo, a serious piece of unseriousness—and the steady touring that Nobunny's been doing since its release has finally started earning him the kind of transatlantic audience he's deserved since he climbed out of the hutch in 2001. Thee Makeout Party! and the Yolks open; Berkeley band the Rock 'n' Roll Adventure Kids will be backing Nobunny. 10 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $10, $7 in advance. —Brian Costello

click to enlarge Charles Rumback - JACOB HAND
  • Charles Rumback
  • Jacob Hand

CHARLES RUMBACK An exceptional musician with a knack for adapting selflessly to the needs of a wide variety of bands, drummer Charles Rumback plays in a slew of local jazz and rock combos, including the Horse's Ha, Via Tania, L'altra, Colorlist, and Leaves. He favors understatement, devoting himself to supporting his partners with steady rhythm and shifting color. He's finally releasing his first recording as a leader, the forthcoming trio date Two Kinds of Art Thieves (Clean Feed), and though he's responsible for all the composed material and is clearly directing the proceedings from behind his kit—even on the carefully measured group improvisations that make up about a third of the album—he never hogs the spotlight. Fortunately saxophonists Greg Ward and Joshua Sclar seem to pick up on Rumback's humility, and don't simply flatten him with unrestrained blowing. They often improvise simultaneously, and because there's usually no bassist (former Chicagoan Jason Ajemian guests on just two tracks), they have a lot of freedom to experiment harmonically. But instead of sounding like they're working out some sort of eggheaded music-theory exercise, they seem to be pair dancing, meticulously shadowing and caressing each other's tuneful postbop gestures—and the drummer holds everything together, content to play precisely what's needed and no more. For this show Rumback will be joined by Sclar, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, and bassist Matt Lux. 10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor,, donation requested. —Peter Margasak

SILK FLOWERS Silk Flowers are the last band you'd expect to rise from the ruins of the delightful Soiled Mattress & the Springs. Soiled Mattress sounded like renegades from a high school's concert jazz band, like they could nose-dive into a rickety bit of Brubeck at any second. But though Silk Flowers share two-thirds of their lineup with that trio—vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Avi Cohen and keyboardist Peter Schuette—their self-titled debut for Post Present Medium is a self-consciously twerpy riff on Joy Division. Cohen sings in a voice so unnaturally low and flat it'd be annoying if it weren't so funny; his faux Ian Curtis sounds like a kid trying to imitate his dad. The band's minimalist and kinda fardled synthetic pop has two moods: one is at the upbeat end of plodding and the other is "goth party rock," assuming such a thing exists. It's a strange mess, and that's what makes it winning and special—if you want your goth disco served straight up, go see Interpol. Halflings and Anatomy of Habit open. Silk Flowers also play a free in-store at 1 PM at Golden Age, 1744 W. 18th. 7 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $5. —Jessica Hopper


LUCERO See Saturday. This set is part of the Green Music Festival. 9 PM, Eckhart Park, 1330 W. Chicago, 312-850-9390, $15, $11.50 in advance ($25, $20 in advance for a two-day pass).


OTTO, NOMO Though his early-90s stints as an auxiliary member of pioneering manguebeat combos like Mundo Livre S/A and Chico Science & Nacao Zumbi certainly deserve a mention in his bio, Brazilian singer OTTO has long since gone his own way, embracing an even more famously omnivorous style—tropicalia—and then branching out from there. His excellent fourth album, Certa Manha Acordei de Sonhos Intranquilos (due next month from Nublu Records), draws liberally from reggae, electronica, and surf rock, all of it energized with a full complement of Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian rhythms; meanwhile his songwriting continues to veer toward romantic pop. He's already covered "Pra Ser So Minha Mulher," a late-70s hit by Brazil's king of cheesy love songs, Roberto Carlos—his version boils off the treacle and adds rhythmic muscle—and many of the tunes on the new album are even more powerfully and nakedly emotional. He gives the bombastic "6 Minutos," which easily could've been a mawkish power ballad, a similarly no-nonsense treatment that makes it flat-out exhilarating, and on two gorgeous duets with Mexican pop star Julieta Venegas he modulates his bearish voice to blend perfectly with the raspy sweetness of hers. Otto's killer band includes wildly versatile Cidadao Instigado guitarist Fernando Catatau and the percussion-heavy rhythm section of Nacao Zumbi, who keep the arrangements full of surprises—and Catatau is part of the seven-piece touring group he brings to Chicago. As Otto proved when he made his local debut three years ago, he's absolutely magnetic onstage, so absorbed in the thrill of the show that he radiates charisma even when he's doing things that would make lesser performers look foolish.

There's no mistaking the galloping Afrobeat groove on the title track to NOMO's latest album, Invisible Cities (Ubiquity), but this superb Ann Arbor-based instrumental group ventures farther afield from the music of Fela Kuti with each release. They cover the quirky Tom Ze tune "Ma," replicating the puzzle-piece contruction of its interlocking riffs, and on the entrancing "Crescent" bandleader Elliot Bergman improvises searching bamboo-flute melodies atop shimmering electric kalimbas, hand claps, and congas. There's a lot of soloing—Bergman's tenor work is particularly gripping—but what's really special is the ensemble sound, which blurs the lines between African music, jazz, and funk, using horns, kalimbas, percussion, and the occasional guitar to create fluid grids of precisely layered rhythms.

Otto headlines and Nomo opens. 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Randolph, 312-742-1168. —Peter Margasak


DR. MANHATTAN Wauconda's Dr. Manhattan make music with roots in emo—punky guitar pop with throat-shredding vocals and teen-romance lyrical themes—but they've evolved to a point on their new album, the self-released Jam Dreams, where it's obviously unfair to call them an emo band. What little sense of humor emo started out with has long since curdled into smug snark, but these guys are openly goofy and actively encourage their fans to see them as dorks—they've got a song called "Biscuits and Groovy" and they often use the word "tron" the way other people say "dude." And though there's definitely some screaming about girls on Jam Dreams, Dr. Manhattan's jumpy song structures mean that those passages are likely to be surrounded by, say, playfully tweaky electro-pop or a party-down Beastie Boys imitation. It's good to see someone working to take back emo from all the self-serious walking haircuts. Truman & His Trophy, Victorian Halls, and Picture Books open; advance ticket holders are invited to a preshow barbecue and kickball game at a location to be disclosed on the band's MySpace page. 6:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $10, $8 in advance. —Miles Raymer


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
October 12
Yoshi Wada & Tashi Wada Graham Foundation
October 22

Tabbed Event Search

Popular Stories

Follow Us

Sign up for newsletters »

 Early Warnings
 Food & Drink
 Reader Recommends
 Reader Events and Offers
The Horseshoe Theory Says Right And Left Wing Are More Similar Than You Think