Great Plains | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Great Plains 

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These five Ohioans play a postpunk grab bag of styles. They've got pretty melodies if you want 'em, but they also go for the two-minute bash-n-dash and they sprinkle some atonal noodling here and there too. At first, it's all a bit annoying since the most noticeable element of their music, besides Ron House's nerdy/wimpy lead vocals, is a rather cheesy keyboard that fits right almost nowhere but pops up almost everywhere. But what makes most of their songs stick and their style matter is something that seems outdated in today's underground--meaningful, poignant lyrics. On their most recent, excellent LP, Sum Things Up (Homestead), House sings, "We're smarter than you'd ever think," but more than that--they're smarter than you'd probably ever hope. The wordplay in song titles like "Martin Luther King and Martin Luther Drinking," "The Wind Blows, the Law Breaks," and "Alfalfa Omega" isn't just empty cleverness, it sums up (as promised) deep realizations about life lived on and viewed from the economic and cultural edge of society. They live, "Beyond downtown / On a street where the sign is torn down." It's a place perpetually stuck in the "End of the Seventies," but they don't let that paralyze them; they know the value of a violent gesture, how to get by on day-old bread, how to cope with a fractured existence that often seems beyond the abilities of the best of us. Through sheer smarts, they've developed a realistic and mature romanticism that, on record, comes off like a small revelation; I can't wait to see how it will come off onstage. Wednesday, 10 PM, Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Renee Velkoff.


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