Cat Power, Willis Earl Beal, Xray Eyeballs | The Vic | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Cat Power, Willis Earl Beal, Xray Eyeballs 18+ Agenda Early Warnings (Music) Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Sun., Oct. 28, 8 p.m. 2012
Price: $35
I feel like I've been reading for years about all the troubles Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power, has been through: insecurity, self-destructive impulses, messy breakups, substance abuse. Lately, though, I've seen a few magazine profiles that suggest she's in a much better place—and I hope that's true. I'd say her new Sun (Matador) is the first of her albums to reflect such big changes in her life. Not only are the lyrics measured, realistic, and cautiously optimistic, but the music is also radically transformed—it's more stripped down and electronic, and Marshall played everything, a new approach for her. She works with synthesizers, drum machines, and even (for a mercifully brief moment) Auto-Tune, and veteran French dance-music producer Philippe Zdar gives the album mix an extra floor-rattling punch—but the retooled sound doesn't obscure Marshall's sorrowful melodic sensibilities and muted, dusky soul. Even at her most ebullient, she sounds angry about the state of the world: on the uplifting "Ruin," she calls out self-absorbed whiners, and though you might expect to be reminded about starving children in such a song, she manages to make the line "Bitchin', complaining, and some people ain't got shit to eat" hit hard. In lesser hands, the kind of grappling with self-determination, dignity, and acceptance that Marshall does on Sun might come off as New Agey claptrap, but she never sugarcoats or oversimplifies the struggle to take control of life's small things. And her sensual phrasing and aerated delivery—at once intimate and forceful—give her words a conviction that transcends the familiar. Marshall leads a new band that includes former Chicagoan Alianna Kalaba (We Ragazzi, the Dishes) on drums. —Peter Margasak Willis Earl Beal and Xray Eyeballs open.

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