Cannanes | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Cannanes 

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CANNANES

Like anything that's been left out too long, indie rock has gotten pretty stale: the seven-inch bins are clogged with enough dreary, inept, and unambitious records (is anyone holding his breath for the next Vehicle Flips disc?) to make me wish the pressing plants would double their prices. It takes a visit from a band like Australia's Cannanes to remind me why I listened to the stuff in the first place. Over the course of 13 years and innumerable lineups, singer and sometime bassist Frances Gibson and guitarist Stephen O'Neil (neither is a founding member, but both have been with the band longer than anyone else) have turned out six albums and a dozen singles loaded with charming, understated pop. What distinguishes them from the multitudes? For one, whether they're addressing kicking the habit ("Smoking," a B side on their latest single), expressing their ambivalence about Australia's sesquicentennial celebrations ("Drug-Induced Delirium," from 1996's The Cannanes), or describing an 80-year-old art hoax ("Ern Malley," from their new Arty Barbecue), the Cannanes' lyrics are hilariously barbed. And O'Neil's briskly strummed rhythm guitar is a study in economy. But most of all, I love the way Gibson's shy, gorgeous voice effortlessly navigates the persistently catchy tunes. In addition to being the Cannanes' first U.S. tour in a couple years, this is their first without irrepressible but arrhythmic drummer David Nichols. While his witty repartee will be missed, the new rhythm section of bassist James Dutton and drummer Ivor Moulds is likely to play a tighter set. Friday (with Aden and the Mountain Goats), 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Saturday (with the Nerves, the Goblins, and the Lonesome Organist), noon, in front of Eckhart Hall, University of Chicago, 1118 E. 58th; 773-702-8289. BILL MEYER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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