Black Angels | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Black Angels 

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There's a theory that once a city reaches a certain population, it'll start spontaneously generating bands devoted to imitating the Velvet Underground. A scene's got to be pretty big before it can support musicians pretentious enough to seriously consider playing in front of trippy oil lights dressed all in black. Not all of them will be tolerable, but there's still a lot of gold left to be mined out of the VU MO. You can tell the Black Angels, a sextet from Austin with their own projectionist, think so too: within the first five seconds of their self-titled EP on Light in the Attic it's obvious they're seriously, seriously into not just the Velvets but the whole idea of bands ripping off the Velvets. Specifically they're followers of the drugs 'n' drones school of Velvetry, which apotheosizes Lou Reed's junkie desperation and Sterling Morrison's feedback antics. In the wrong hands (I'm thinking Anton Newcombe from the Brian Jonestown Massacre and sometimes Jason Spaceman) this leads to little but high-minded sloppiness, but the Black Angels take a cue from fellow dronanists the Jesus and Mary Chain and play the stuff tight. The JAMC did it with drum machines, and the Black Angels do it by framing their buzzing, hovering psychedelic noise like garage rock: they give each song at least one killer riff and wrap it up before it gets old. Along with the Gris Gris, these guys are a compelling argument for the Horizontal Action set to put down the Pabst and pick up a bong. The Sleepers play second and Danger opens. This show is part of the Hawk Winter Music Festival; for a complete schedule see page 36. Sun 2/19, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8.

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