David Thomas & Two Pale Boys | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

David Thomas & Two Pale Boys 

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DAVID THOMAS & TWO PALE BOYS

The characters in Surf's Up! (Thirsty Ear), the latest album by David Thomas & Two Pale Boys, do a lot of driving--down ribbons of highway, past lonely neon signs, through the desert--but they never find a good place to stop. That's because the trip ended a long time ago, and they just don't know it. In an interview posted on the Web site Ubu Projex, Thomas (who also fronts Pere Ubu) uses the title tune, a Brian Wilson composition destined for the never-released Beach Boys album Smile, to sum up this dilemma: he claims the song "describe[s] perfectly an image and set of ideas that exist at the point where the irresistible Westward Urge meets the Immovable Pacific Object, where a separate peace must be negotiated in the final chapter of the Great American Novel." With this record Thomas has written a dystopian epilogue to that novel, depicting a population of unconnected souls who, with no frontier left to cross and nowhere to call home, have simply started to tear things down. In two different songs he mourns the Wilson-Shute bridge, which was demolished to make way for another bridge. In the second of these, an eerie spoken-word piece called "Ghosts," he intones, "In this way it had to end. / There comes a time when people don't understand, / When the stones will speak in a strange language, / And all those dreams, / All those fears and hopes, / Won't make any sense / Anymore." Paradoxically, the Two Pale Boys render Thomas's desolate vision in vivid colors. Keith Moliné can control up to four voices with his MIDI-rigged guitar--on "Runaway," for instance, he simultaneously churns out garagey chords, glides through swooping slide licks, and triggers a banjo sample--and trumpeter and electronicist Andy Diagram (also of the duo Spaceheads) sometimes distorts and loops his brassy blurts into pounding bass lines, or sings into the mike in his horn's bell to produce an ersatz aria. This is one of only five dates on the band's U.S. tour. Friday, April 20, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.

BILL MEYER

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