90s Nostalgia | Bleader | Chicago Reader

90s Nostalgia

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Jonny Polonsky celebrates decades of guitar-pop perfection with a show in his old hometown

Posted By on 11.20.18 at 11:24 AM

Jonny Polonsky - PHOTO BY AURELIEN BUDYNEK
  • Photo by Aurelien Budynek
  • Jonny Polonsky

In 2018, emerging musicians commonly hashtag artists they admire on Instagram or @ them on Twitter, hoping for a signal boost that might get them new listeners. In the 80s and 90s, though, the analog to this social-media circuit was tape trading (eventually people started using burned CDs, but "CD trading" doesn't have the same ring).

Among the most successful at this organic style of self-promotion was Jonny Polonsky, a Chicago-born, Wilmette-raised singer-songwriter who began hand-distributing his self-produced cassettes at shows around the city when he was still a teenager. By 1994, when he reached legal drinking age, he'd already made fans of the likes of Marc Ribot, Jeff Buckley, and John Zorn. That same year he released a demo produced by Frank Black, which quickly persuaded Rick Rubin to sign him to American Recordings. Polonsky's 1996 debut album, Hi My Name Is Jonny, brims with smart, pristine power pop, and it made him a critical darling; stints on Lollapalooza and other cross-country tours followed.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Looking back on a more innocent time when we could ask, ‘Are the fights on Jerry Springer staged?’

Posted By on 03.15.18 at 06:00 AM

Current topics of interest to the producers of The Jerry Springer Show - JERRYSPRINGERTV.COM
  • jerryspringertv.com
  • Current topics of interest to the producers of The Jerry Springer Show

The
Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

It's amazing to think about it, but The Jerry Springer Show is still on the air. It's moved to Stamford, Connecticut, and it has a website now (and also a podcast), but if you click on the link that asks, "Are you ready to turn up and get lit and confront somebody on the Jerry Springer Show?," you will be redirected to an online form requesting your contact information. You can even still see it—for free! In this crazy world, it's comforting that things never change. Even Jerry looks exactly the same as he did back in 1994.

The difference between now and the'90s is that in 1999, the Reader could still run a headline that asked, in all honest credulity, "Are the fights on Jerry Springer staged?" What followed, however, was not a simple "DUH" but an entertaining account by a self-described "blue-collar rogue-meets-writer" named Salem of the time she flew from Seattle to Chicago with two cohorts to fight, er, talk about what had happened since she met "a fine redhead" six months prior.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Reader critic uncovers the secret purpose of Teletubbies

Posted By on 02.01.18 at 09:00 AM

"The most blatant piece of prodrug propaganda since Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception." - PBS-RAGDOLL PRODUCTIONS
  • PBS-RAGDOLL PRODUCTIONS
  • "The most blatant piece of prodrug propaganda since Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception."

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.


When you think of Lee Sandlin and the Reader, the first thing you probably think of is "Losing the War," his epic two-part essay ostensibly about World War II but really, like the best essays, about many other things.

Sandlin wrote more for the Reader, though, much, much more. And not all of it was long, serious essays. He reviewed classical music and television, too. For those reviews, he applied the same rigor to his research and writing as he did to his historical essays. Even when the subject was Teletubbies.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Tim Kinsella and Cap'n Jazz harnessed the raw power of their 90s selves at Riot Fest

Posted By on 09.18.17 at 03:41 PM

Cap'n Jazz's Tim Kinsella - ALISON GREEN
  • Alison Green
  • Cap'n Jazz's Tim Kinsella

Near the end of Cap'n Jazz's riotous Riot Fest performance, frontman Tim Kinsella snuck a glance at the massive video board above the stage to glimpse a supersized black-and-white version of himself. Covered in sweat, his shirt half ripped off, he was holding a tambourine aloft in one hand and a microphone in the other while crowd surfing. "I need to find a real job," he cracked. Then he offered a dismissive rebuttal: "Pfft."

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dave Hofer preserves suburban punk’s past with DuPage County Hardcore

Posted By on 09.08.16 at 09:00 AM

The cover of a late-90s Authority Abuse compilation, one of many recordings archived on DuPage County Hardcore's Bandcamp page
  • The cover of a late-90s Authority Abuse compilation, one of many recordings archived on DuPage County Hardcore's Bandcamp page
In April 2013, author Dave Hofer (who's also a buyer for Reckless Records and played in the Chicago Thrash Ensemble) launched a Bandcamp page called DuPage County Hardcore that's dedicated to archiving bygone punk bands from his old stomping grounds. Since then he's dug up and uploaded for posterity a growing trove of old cassette demos, seven-inches, and CDs from barely remembered grind bands, long-forgotten punk crews, and even some groups you've probably heard of—among them Spitalfield, the pop-punk band fronted by Downwrite cofounder Mark Rose. Everything at DuPage County Hardcore is unavailable elsewhere (as best as Hofer can tell) and free to download. The collection demonstrates the fascinatingly broad range of the sounds that burbled up from a specific section of Chicago's suburban punk scene in the mid-90s. I was quite taken by goofy, swashbuckling accordion-and-drums duo Herc., who hardly fit with the pop punk and aggressive hardcore that dominate the page.

A few weeks ago, after a quiet summer, Hofer resumed uploading material to the Bandcamp page at a steady clip—including a 1998 demo by pop-punk crossover stars the Plain White T's. I reached out to him to find out more about the DuPage County Hardcore project.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

The X-Files's obsession with UFOs seems quaint in the era of the super PAC

Posted By on 02.08.16 at 06:20 PM

Mulder and Scully have witnessed far too much nutty space shit to remain incredulous. - FOX
  • Fox
  • Mulder and Scully have witnessed far too much nutty space shit to remain incredulous.

An old, recognizable poster is visible on the wall of Fox Mulder's office during the new X-Files miniseries. It shows a blurry image of what appears to be a flying saucer hovering over a forest. Printed in bold type below the shot: i want to believe. It serves as a testament to Mulder's earnest faith in extraterrestrial or paranormal beings and a deep skepticism towards a heavy-handed federal government that suppresses and obfuscates their existence.

That the iconic image still hangs in the same spot since The X-Files pilot aired way back in 1993 is a little wink to longtime fans. But in 2016, it's also a cringe-inducing, laughably outdated relic—both because of events that have occurred over the last 23 years in Chris Carter's beloved sci-fi universe and, more importantly, what's transpired in our own world. 

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair hit the road together, 22 years after an infamous takedown in the Reader

Posted By on 02.02.16 at 11:10 AM

Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan and imminent tourmate Liz Phair - PHOTOS BY OWEN SWEENEY AND KEITH HALE
  • Photos by Owen Sweeney and Keith Hale
  • Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan and imminent tourmate Liz Phair

In early 1997, when I'd been at the Reader just a few months, I learned about a piece of workplace history already treasured by the other music nerds on staff: that time in '94 when Steve Albini wrote in to tear Reader music critic Bill Wyman a new orifice because Wyman had dismissed the "rear guard from the underground" as "bullshit" in his year-end column while praising the Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, and Urge Overkill.

Albini's magisterially cranky letter ran in the issue of January 28, 1994, headlined "Three Pandering Sluts and Their Music-Press Stooge." (The headline was ours, but the language was all his—it ought to give you a pretty good idea of his tone throughout.) Replies flooded in over the next two months, some pro and some con, including a letter from Weasel Walter of the Flying Luttenbachers so sarcastic that not even light could escape. One person who didn't respond, though, was Wyman himself—at least not before the end of March (that's as far as I searched in our bound volumes of back issues).

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Remembering God Is My Co-Pilot: 'We're here / We're queer / We're gonna fuck your children!'

Posted By on 10.29.15 at 12:00 PM

The back cover of God Is My Co-Pilot's first release, the 1991 seven-inch Songs of Praise - PHOTO BY EVE PRIME
  • Photo by Eve Prime
  • The back cover of God Is My Co-Pilot's first release, the 1991 seven-inch Songs of Praise

If you've read my recent posts on Gravitar and Star Pimp, you already know I was a college-radio weenie in the early 90s. Back then I was only dimly aware of the queer activism happening in punk, hardcore, and other forms of underground and avant-garde rock. I mean, I knew that Pansy Division, Team Dresch, Tribe 8, and Fifth Column existed, but did I understand that they were part of a deep-rooted movement? I doubt it. I was a mostly straight kid, still getting educated about all sorts of shit, and the Internet wasn't around to help me connect the dots.

Today, of course, I work in music journalism. It's part of my job to be aware of stuff. But to my ears, the current conversation around queer punk is missing something: Almost nobody seems to remember God Is My Co-Pilot.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Alt-rock revivalists Post Child brings more 90s nostalgia to town this weekend

Posted By on 07.31.15 at 12:00 PM

Brain in Two
  • "Brain in Two"
If you survive Lollapalooza this weekend, there's a whole other dose of 90s nostalgia to take in on Sunday night. Local four-piece Post Child, who deliver a massive blast of throwback alt-rock, play in the basement of the Double Door at 8 PM. Today's 12 O'Clock Track is their new single, "Brain in Two," which showcases their knack for radio-ready, 90s slacker-rock perfection. The catchy jam brims with slick guitar leads and bummed-out, hypermelodic hooks; the group tip their hats to hit-machine monsters Weezer. No band in town right now sounds anything like Post Child, and that's part of what makes them so great. Check out "Brain in Two" below.

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Check out our photos of the Pixies' Metro show

Posted By on 06.12.15 at 01:30 PM

The Pixies
  • Bobby Talamine
  • The Pixies
Regardless of whether or not you consider the Pixies's current lineup to be on par with the band's heyday—or, since the departure of bassist-singer Kim Deal two years ago—the influential indie-rock outfit can still pack 'em in at the last minute. So the crowds came out when the group played a surprise show at the Metro on Wednesday, which they announced the day of the concert. I couldn't make it, and I'm sure many others who wanted to go couldn't get in either; fortunately veteran photographer Bobby Talamine was on the scene, and captured the latest incarnation of the Pixies in all their glory. So why not throw on Doolittle, crank the volume up as high as you can without disturbing your coworkers, and take a peek at Talamine's photos below.

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