Momus, Kahimi Karie | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Momus, Kahimi Karie 

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Momus's sense of humor isn't for everyone. Last year the British pop musician recorded a witty fantasy about Wendy Carlos, the transsexual creator of Switched-On Bach, traveling back in time to marry her former self, Walter. Neither Momus nor his U.S. label, Le Grand Magistery, will discuss the song now, but not long after its original release, his The Little Red Songbook was reissued, minus "Walter Carlos," and according to an interview disc that came with my copy of his latest album, Stars Forever, the concept behind it was hatched to raise $30,000 in unspecified legal fees; you fill in the blanks. Trumpeting Stars Forever as a return to patronage, Momus used his Web site to offer original musical portraits of anyone willing to pony up a thousand bucks. He quickly found 30 takers, who provided him with thousand-word descriptions of themselves as source material. The results are often hilarious: "Kokoro Hirai" is about a girl who eats too much chocolate and has to go to the hospital; "Stefano Zarelli" questions the honesty of the subject's depiction of himself via a quarrel between an angel and the devil over Zarelli's soul; "Natsuko Tayama" details the patron's debilitating shyness in a boastful rap; "Shawn Krueger" was designed as a marriage proposal (and reportedly did the trick). There are a few songs about businesses (including Chicago's Minty Fresh label and Reckless Records) and a few about fellow musicians (Scott McCaughey of the Minus 5 and Cornelius's Keigo Oyamada), but no subject is safe from Momus's sharp hooks, forked tongue, and twisted imagination. . . . Momus, who has a significant fan base in Japan, has written a number of songs for Tokyo pop starlet Kahimi Karie, several of which show up on her latest album, K.K.K.K. (Le Grand Magistery). On the new work Karie retreats from the fleshed-out retro-fluff of her 1998 collection on Minty Fresh, favoring leaner, more experimental, electronically dominated soundscapes that highlight her vocal limitations. Occasionally this has an interesting effect: her wispy, sung-spoken delivery becomes downright subversive on Momus's "What Are You Wearing?" where she warbles, "I will describe my underwear / It's warm against my hair / Soft against my skin / But you can't come in / Until the pink and yellow duck / That is printed on the front / Begins to smile." In other entertaining moments, she fetes filmmaker Harmony Korine, dereggaefies the Jimmy Cliff classic "The Harder They Come," and details various activities she likes to engage in while listening to Beethoven's symphonies. Karie's Chicago debut last year came off as sexy karaoke at best; I have no reason to think this gig will be any different. Opening the show is regular Momus accompanist Toog, whose solo album, 6633 (also on Le Grand Magistery), presents him as a mild-mannered, keyboard-playing Serge Gainsbourg wannabe. Expect the whole night to be long on cleverness but short on chops. Friday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160.

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