Combustible Edison | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Combustible Edison 

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At first listen Combustible Edison has the dubious syrupy charm of mere lounge-act shtick, which has become all the rage these days among many veterans of the punk/alternative circuit (see: Grenadine and Love Jones). But further examination reveals it to be a quirky, sophisticated blend of disparate musical influences. Combustible Edison is the brainchild of Liz Cox and Michael Cudahy (now working under the names Miss Lily Banquette and the Millionaire, respectively), whose previous band, Christmas, was much admired among late-80s cognoscenti for its brainy, skewed, sometimes brilliant pop songs. For I, Swinger, Combustible Edison's debut on Sub Pop, the band members have donned formalwear and begun noodling with vibraphone- and piano-dappled cocktail lounge ditties. More than mere musical slumming, the album offers strange takes on standards like "Cry Me a River" and Kurt Weill's "Surabaya Johnny" as well as weird instrumentals like "Breakfast at Denny's," which sounds like an outtake from the Residents' Commercial Album, and "Impact!," a kind of meeting of early Arnold Schoenberg, the Doors, and the Ventures. Throw in some melodic South Pacific musical forgeries and you have the Combustible Edison experience. It's seemingly tongue-in-cheek but too labored to be a joke: is Combustible Edison smugly toying with schlock as a form of pop art or earnestly trying to create intelligent music? Either way, leave your torn jeans and penchant for cut-rate suds at home. Friday, 10:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600.

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