Local power-pop great Julian Leal celebrates the reissue of his 1985 LP | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Local power-pop great Julian Leal celebrates the reissue of his 1985 LP 

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click to enlarge Julian Leal

Julian Leal

Courtesy the Artist

If the 80s had been a perfect decade for music, we wouldn't have the overproduced, radio-friendly power pop of Eddie Money or Bryan Adams still getting pumped over the airwaves—instead, we’d have the fun, catchy anthems of Julian Leal. The Romeoville native, who now lives in Plainfield, never reached the mainstream heights he deserved, probably because he never had management or a regular band and his singles were as DIY as they come. But he did have brushes with fame: his second single, “Get Away,” got good ratings from the kids on American Bandstand; he appeared as an extra in the 1987 rock film Light of Day, starring Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett; and he made a fan out of Bomp! mogul Greg Shaw, who at least considered putting out Leal’s music. And he sure had the tunes: Leal’s 1986 debut single, “Mad About You,” is just as infectious as the Go-Go’s song of the same name, and “Get Away” has such a monster hook that it surely could’ve conquered the charts. Years later, that tune helped revive Leal’s career after superfan Frankie Smith helped get it onto the 2012 Numero compilation Buttons: From Champaign to Chicago and assembled a new band for Leal. The group includes Smith on guitar, Eric Ottens on keys, Christmas Woods (Smith’s wild former bandmate in heavy glamsters Mickey) on drums, and Renaissance man Joe Losurdo (who codirected 2009 Chicago punk doc You Weren’t There) on bass. With this band, Leal has played with the likes of garage icons the Gories, and he sounds as urgent and blistering as ever, channeling the best of the Raspberries, Tommy Keene, and 20/20 while retaining his own distinct voice. The best showcase for Leal’s sugary, rockin’ hooks is his lone LP, first released in 1985 and now being reissued (with bonus tracks) by HoZac, which calls him “the King of Roller Skate Rock.” This show is a release party for the reissue, and there’s no better time to discover Leal’s feel-good tunes than now. Also, as a rare treat, infamous local punk band the Mentally Ill (whose 1979 seven-inch “Gacy’s Place” comes up in You Weren’t There, with Steve Albini calling it “the best record ever”) will be rockin’ at Reed's alongside the incendiary Julian Leal Band.   v

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