Sonics, Barrence Whitfield & the Savages | Thalia Hall | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Merri Sutton

Sonics, Barrence Whitfield & the Savages 

When: Fri., April 24, 9 p.m. 2015
Price: $25-$35
When the Sonics played the Double Door in early 2014, it was the first Chicago show in their five-decade history. Now these venerated garage-rock maniacs are back with another first—their first new studio album since 1967, last month’s This Is the Sonics (Revox), recorded by former Dirtbombs bassist Jim Diamond in what the cover calls “earth-shaking mono.” When the Sonics released their debut LP in 1965, rock ’n’ roll had been freaking out the squares for more than a decade, but these five kids from Tacoma, Washington, supplemented the usual juvie snarling about cars and chicks with sinister, bug-eyed derangement—they sound like a furniture-destroying house party that could turn into a B-movie bloodbath with the flick of a switchblade. The Sonics fell apart by 1969, after a disastrous flirtation with a more polished sound, but today they’ve got three members from their classic lineup: guitarist Larry Parypa (who founded the earliest version of the group in 1960), saxophonist Rob Lind, and inimitable howler Gerald “Jerry” Roslie (who also plays keys). The new album sticks to the band’s familiar mix of stomping, swinging caveman-club originals and in-the-tradition covers, including Hank Ballard’s “Look at Little Sister,” Marty Robbins’s “Sugaree,” and Nick Ashford’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” Roslie’s flamethrower of a voice has thinned and cracked (sometimes he definitely sounds like a guy who’ll turn 71 next month), but the Sonics still have the same pell-mell energy in their no-fucks-given slam-bang performances—and new bassist Freddie Dennis (who played with UK transplants the Liverpool Five in the late 60s) does a decent Roslie impression on several songs. The band’s lyrics on This Is the Sonics never get as dumb-brilliant as my favorite couplet in the immortal “Strychnine” (“Wine is red, poison is blue / Strychnine is good for what’s ailing you”), but on “Save the Planet” Roslie shares a sentiment I can get behind: “Everybody’s loaded, everybody here / We have to save the planet, it’s the only one with beer.” —Philip Montoro
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