Spot Check | Spot Check | Chicago Reader

Spot Check 

RED FIVE 12/20, METRO Guitarists-vocalists Jenni McElrath and Betty Carmellini demonstrate an able way with a power chord and a punky pop zaniness reminiscent of the B-52's on this LA quartet's debut album, Flash (Interscope). Now if the band could just write a decent song or two. The deplorably soppy Sponge headlines. C-CLAMP 12/21, EMPTY BOTTLE On its first full-length, Meander and Return (Ohio Gold), this local threesome keeps the tempos slow, the mood dark 'n' dreamy, and the frequencies low. A healthy respect for balance and dynamics pays off in moments of brilliant, angular beauty, such as "A Stand Still," which oddly suggests a quiet Burt Bacharach-Dionne Warwick soul kiss; elsewhere, it at least prevents the thing from turning into sludge. EKOOSTIK HOOKAH 12/21, HOG HEAD McDUNNA'S This six-piece hippie-rock ensemble based in Columbus, Ohio, jams to the point of excess on a recent self-titled and -distributed double-live CD. Though the red-hot guitar break on their "Washboard Annie" would have tickled Jelly Roll Morton, these craftsmen seem content just to bring a twinkle to the eye of anyone nostalgic for a time when musicians were judged primarily by how fast they could play. HIDDEN CHRONICLES 12/21, LUNAR CABARET In-house artists Beau O'Reilly and Michael Greenberg (on piano) mostly avoid stuffy pretentiousness in this hardy cabaret-style project, thanks especially to the expressive range and sensitivity of O'Reilly's warble. Though by no means classifiable as rock, it's often reminiscent of early Bowie, a common influence no doubt being the stark music written by Kurt Weill and others for the plays of Bertolt Brecht. They're performing every Saturday this month; this bill includes a trio featuring Ken Vandermark. HONEYDOGS 12/21, SCHUBAS Not surprisingly this Minneapolis quartet's sound somewhat resembles that of the Jayhawks and Wilco (country-rock supergroup Golden Smog includes members from all three bands). Yet its second album, Everything, I Bet You (October), curiously echoes distinctive aspects of various Beatles tracks: "Miles Away" gets its rhythm from "Anna (Go to Him)" and "Moth" from "I Call Your Name," while "Kandiyohi" rocks a lot like "One After 909"; whenever guitarist Adam Levy intones the title name in "Miriam," he recalls Lennon's "Julia," and "Over You" ends on a conspicuously fancy chord, just like "She Loves You." Who woulda thunk it?--the Fab Four as forefathers of No Depression. ETHANSWING 12/26, EMPTY BOTTLE A brace of tracks from the compilation Beluga...on the Rocks finds this Libertyville band trying to wriggle its way out of a straitjacket. But jagged rhythms, dissonant riffs, and disgruntled vocals--energetic but unoriginal--prove no match for whatever's keeping it down.

--Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): C-Clamp photo.

Get our free weekly Early Warnings newsletter 💌

It’s Chicago’s essential months-ahead music calendar straight to your inbox.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

More by Frank Youngwerth

Popular Stories