Mark DeNardo | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mark DeNardo 

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I confess I didn't see it coming, but in retrospect Game Boy-generated underground music seems inevitable. Introduced stateside in 1989, the handheld machines are essentially small, cheap computers, and given the rapid obsolescence endemic to the electronics biz, most of the early models have ended up on closet floors or at garage sales. According to a November 2003 Wired write-up by none other than Malcom McLaren, an international vanguard of shallow-pocketed geeks has learned to reprogram the little buggers' crude sound chips to play something other than the Legend of Zelda theme--and among the musicians name-checked by McLaren's contacts ("two guys named Thierry and Jacques") was Chicagoan Mark DeNardo. DeNardo's forthcoming third CD, Doppelganger (self-released, like the first two), blends Game Boy with acoustic guitar and sleepy, wistful singing in brief, twittery pop confections; alongside the shiny video game noises, his vocals are relatively murky, so that lines like "The sky is made of marshmallow...you can eat it like cereal" float beneath the surface of the music like bananas in Jell-O. DeNardo's charming little songdroids recall the sound (though not the depth or irony) of Momus's Folktronic album, the hazy sweetness of the Russian Futurists (without most of their angst), and the square, sunny 60s pop of the Cyrkle (in their "Cloudy" mode). Oh, and he plays in a cardboard robot mask. Yuppster and Bud Melvin, two other local Game Boy musicians, open. $8, all ages. Friday, July 2, 9 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor; 773-342-4597.

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