Metal Hearts | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Metal Hearts 

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This Baltimore duo really has a way with bad ideas. On the new Socialize (Suicide Squeeze), Anar Badalov and Flora Wolpert-Checknoff seem to be playing a game of aesthetic chicken, daring each other to come up with the least appropriate thing to do in an intimate, downcast indie-rock tune. That would explain the coupling of a smooth, faux-Steely Dan sax solo and a sudden blurt of grotty distorted guitar on "Sunray" at least, or the counterintuitive drum programming, which often pairs patient, autumnal instrumental tracks with a kind of outsider-art take on Timbaland's techy polyrhythms. But they pull it off every time, ending up with an album that sounds as urgent as it does lazy, full of accusations and hope. The Metal Hearts are obvious about their influences--the usual suspects are Cat Power (fingerpicked guitars, hesitant vocals) and Arab Strap (drum machines, depression), but most notably they might be the first band to rip off Modest Mouse in a good way. They never back down from a drastic midsong shift in tempo, density, or mood, and in keeping with Isaac Brock's slanted ideas about how pop music should function, they balance two radically opposed modes, either tossing out artsy hooks thick and fast or hovering inside a kind of faux-folksy drone. With its laid-back pacing and understated arrangements, Socialize is a pop record that doesn't behave like a pop record--I don't know if you're supposed to dance to it or put it on apres breakup or what. But teenage ache hasn't sounded this good to me in a while. Hockey Night headlines; the Metal Hearts, the Headlights, and I Need Sleep open. Mon 3/20, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401. Free.

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