Marshall Crenshaw | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Marshall Crenshaw 

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I suppose Marshall Crenshaw's moment has passed--though to be fair, it was probably already gone by the time the pop rocker started his career, playing John Lennon in the Beatlemania stage show in the late 70s. But for what it's worth, his eponymously titled 1982 debut album and its follow-up, 1983's Field Day (both on Warner Brothers), are still two of the best pop records ever made, tartly sentimental and consciously crafty, with jangling guitars, old-fashioned harmonies, and punchy production. It takes a class act to know one, and Crenshaw's secret weapon has always been his taste in covers. As demonstrated by 1994's superb live album My Truck Is My Home (his first release for his current label, Razor & Tie), he still has the golden ear: the set features ace covers of the MC5, Abba, and Dave Alvin. And on Miracle of Science in 1996, he added Ray Price, Dobie Gray, and Husker Du's Grant Hart to his repertoire. Nobody's ever accused Crenshaw himself of being a great lyricist--standard equals classic in his book--but he has written classics. Unfortunately, they're in short supply on his new #447, probably his most dispiriting album ever. He's always sounded melancholy, but it's never been anything a brand-new love couldn't fix; here, he sounds almost morose. But if My Truck Is My Home is any indication, his live show is bound to have considerably more zest. And a few of the new tunes--"West of Bald Knob," "Eydie's Tune," "You Said What??"--forgo lyrics altogether to showcase Crenshaw's secret weapon: his stellar, if slightly anonymous, guitar work. Friday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160. Saturday, 8 PM, Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Ct., Schaumburg; 847-895-3600. Michaelangelo Matos

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

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