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Spot Check 

CHLORINE 10/8, HOUSE OF BLUES Not even as interesting as Ratt, who headline. NEBULA 10/8, EMPTY BOTTLE To the Center (Sub Pop) is the forthcoming full-length debut from this LA trio (earlier EPs were on Man's Ruin and Relapse), and their bongwater-stanky groove is colored deep purple and blue--as in cheer, and as in the brand of electric bronto-ballet that flourished briefly in the late 60s and early 70s in the dope- and science-fiction-addled brains of freaks who thought (correctly) that Cream was never heavy enough. Rock critics hated this stuff back then, but we know better now. KEVIN O'DONNELL with MAD SHAK DANCE COMPANY 10/8, 9, 15 & 16, HAROLD WASHINGTON LIBRARY Kevin O'Donnell, the drummer for Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire as well as his own Quality Six, leads a double--or is that triple?--life as composer for various well-respected dance ensembles, primarily the local Mad Shak Dance Company, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this weekend with a new piece O'Donnell scored, Glass Slipper Totem. The music's radically unlike anything either of his bands has done, a few country torch songs (with vocals by Bird and the Blacks' Nora O'Connor) punctuating a brooding electronic churn. O'Donnell won't be playing here--the music's prerecorded--but he will dance in another piece he scored, Questionable Advantage, and in a third piece, Hive. MORTICIAN 10/9, SMILER COOGAN'S It's October, which means at Walgreens it's time for black nail polish and at my household it's time for death metal. More death metal than usual, that is. This New York trio hasn't got much in the versatility or wit departments, but it makes reliable use of slasher-movie samples, and the cover art of its new Chainsaw Dismemberment (Relapse)--though oddly restrained by the standards of the genre--is evocative. Heavy? You wouldn't want to drop it on your foot, that's for sure, but while the PR blathers on about how "they de-tune their guitars an additional three steps!!" I found it was the nearly subsonic vocals--like Tibetan monks chanting from a planet with three times the earth's gravity--that my little office stereo couldn't handle. RED KRAYOLA 10/9, Reckless on milwaukee, EMPTY BOTTLE Red Krayola head Mayo Thompson's been an icon of the avant-garde rock set for more than 30 years, orchestrating masterful freak-outs in the late 60s, joining Pere Ubu in the 70s, producing records for the Raincoats, the Fall, and Cabaret Voltaire in the 80s, and ferreting out the cream of the post-rock crop to complement his deliciously skewed poetics in the 90s. That said, on his recent records for Drag City, including the new Fingerpainting, he's alternately sounded recharged and propped up: the restless, sometimes inspired sonic kitchen-sinkdom gives him plenty of room to rest on his laurels. The 12-person lineup on the record includes guitarist Tom Watson, who's not on this tour but passes through the same night with Mike Watt (see below); the roster for these shows includes David Grubbs, vocalist Sandy Yang, John McEntire on acoustic drums, and Watt's old mate George Hurley on electric drums. At the Empty Bottle, Grubbs (in a solo set) and Joan of Arc open. MIKE WATT, COBRA VERDE 10/9, DOUBLE DOOR Watt's a man who loves the road--the records, when he bothers to make them, are just an excuse to tour. Though he hasn't released anything new since his 1997 musical memoir Contemplating the Engine Room (Columbia), he's back yet again, this time with Slovenly and Red Krayola veteran Tom Watson filling Nels Cline's unfillable shoes. The set, according to reports from the road, is a sort of "Watt's jukebox" that may feature Television's "Little Johnny Jewel" and Lou Reed's "The Blue Mask" as well as Blue Oyster Cult's "The Red and the Black," a standard from the Minutemen days, and even a Minutemen track or two. Also on the bill is Cobra Verde, the band fronted by guitarist and writer John Petkovic, whom, depending on your age, you may know from his late-80s Homestead band Death of Samantha or his late-90s participation in Guided by Voices. In the grand old Cleveland tradition, Cobra Verde's second proper album, Nightlife (Motel), is an exhilarating blast of smart, jagged, guitar rock that's not afraid to embrace the dramatic growl or the well-placed synth twitter. ART OF NOISE 10/11, METRO Once a project to be reckoned with, using dance beats, cut-ups, and other studio wizardry in a string of inventive singles in the early 80s, Art of Noise scored its biggest hits--a version of "Peter Gunn" featuring Duane Eddy, "Paranoimia," featuring virtual front man Max Headroom, and a cover of Prince's "Kiss" featuring Tom Jones--after parting ways with its original producer, Trevor Horn, in '85. Their march toward mush, exemplified by the orchestrally overburdened In No Sense? Nonsense, from 1989, has often been pinned on the split, but Horn's present and accounted for on the new The Seduction of Claude Debussy (on his ZTT label) and this sound track "from quite another film that never existed" is as squishy as it gets. Abetted by liner notes that provide gratuitous "excerpts" from "An Index to Art of Noise's Wonderful World of the World" (under C: caffeine, John Cage, capitalism, cardboard, Coco Chanel, Cher, Chinese writing, Helene Cixous, raw clams, Cluster, Douglas Coupland, Courteney Cox), Horn and his merry band of neofuturists mix ponderous quasi-documentary samples, shallow references to French poets, and rapping by Rakim into some of the most middling middle-of-the-road electronica that ever sounded like it should score a phone-sex commercial, proving to the world...what? That they can outbullshit DJ Spooky? PINERS 10/14, SCHUBAS There's an endearingly believable "just folks" air about this Maine country-folk band. Occasionally, as on "The Loneliest Yodel in the World," they creep up onto that idealized back porch the Grateful Dead always longed to turn a stadium into, watch the bug zapper for a few minutes, drink a beer, and shuffle back off into the woods. Sometimes vocalist Boo Cowie works up a little genuine lonesome tension, applying it just sparingly enough that you feel it when it's there--and when it's not you get so relaxed that you talk slower. There's a trick a lot of No Depression kids haven't mastered yet.

--Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Welling.

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