Quasi, Ladybug Transistor | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Quasi, Ladybug Transistor 

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Sam Coomes puts the "inarticulate" in "inarticulate rage" on Quasi's unfortunately titled Hot Shit (Touch and Go). In the ranted coda to "White Devil's Dream," an indictment of recent U.S. policy, he runs down a list of administration-related figures, including the entire Bush family and Messrs. Ashcroft, Cheney, Powell, and Rumsfeld, and tells them all to fuck off. The anger is understandable, but he's not adding much to the debate. Other tries at political lyrics are equally heartfelt but no more illuminating: On "Seven Years Gone" Coomes is suspicious of the government's war on terror, and he extends the lone metaphor in "Master & Dog" (hint: we're the dog) further than he needs to. And the gospel-flavored "Good Times" espouses a vague optimism, imploring listeners to keep their chins up "in spite of it all." The music is more engaging, but similarly unfocused: Coomes and drummer Janet Weiss (of Sleater-Kinney) haven't lost their melodic touch but never before have they gone in for sonic chaos as they do here. Coomes plays rough-textured electric piano and slide guitar--usually through some sort of overdrive effect--and his singing, once dispassionately precise, has become sloppier to match; meanwhile Weiss stays in control and provides a steady source of power. The band's gritty new sound conveys a sense of fury, but as with the lyrics some clarity would sharpen it. Clarity's not a problem for the middle band on this bill, Brooklyn's Ladybug Transistor--front man Gary Olson enunciates like Henry Higgins. While the band continues to draw too directly on the sophisticated pop of 60s acts like the Left Banke, the Association, and the Cowsills, its fifth album, The Ladybug Transistor (Merge), packs more rock firepower than previous efforts without sacrificing the regal but catchy melodies. The new album comes on the heels of similarly inclined releases like The Long Goodbye by the Essex Green, which features Ladybugs Jeff Baron and Sasha Bell, and Destination Girl (Telegraph Company), the debut from Bell's solo project Finishing School. You can tell they're all related, but the Ladybug Transistor--with its orchestral arrangements and strong vocal harmonies--is the best of them. With Perfect Panther. Friday, October 31, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.


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