Sue Garner & Rick Brown | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sue Garner & Rick Brown 

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SUE GARNER & RICK BROWN

In their sorely underrated bands Fish & Roses and Run On, this married duo's idiosyncratic songs have always included significant input from others, most notably keyboardist Dave Sutter in the former and guitarist Alan Licht in the latter. But although guests like reedist Doug Weiselman and bassist Douglas McCombs add some nice touches to their new album, Still (Thrill Jockey), Sue Garner and Rick Brown have finally made a record that's unquestionably theirs. Recorded mostly at their apartment and rehearsal space in New York, it's their most personal and intimate work: Garner contemplates maternal longings on the delicate "I Like the Name Alice" and yearns for an escape from New York on "Let Us Out," and she and Brown resign themselves to the indie-rock grind on the driving "Asphalt Road." But their observations are too well put and too beautifully framed to come off as mopey or bitter. Their palette is an inventive mix of guitar, bass, samples, archaic synthesizers, drums, and melodic percussion like marimba and steel drum, and for each song they unfailingly pick out just the right combination of colors. Gauzy saxophone envelops the mesmerizing guitar arpeggios of "Absorbed," but the first half of their sharp cover of John Lennon's "It's So Hard" uses only a single synth pulse to complement their multitracked vocals; the instrumental "Synthbug" weds a clipped bass line that sounds like it was cribbed from Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" to a hazy swirl of marimba and synthesizer and jagged drum-machine beats, while the more precise programmed percussion on "Short and Semi-Sweet" is offset by herky-jerky guitar. And as usual Garner's honeyed voice ties together the pop songcraft and the experimental impulses with nonchalant grace. For this performance the couple will be joined by McCombs on bass and lap steel. Town and Country (who've just released a new EP called Decoration Day on Thrill Jockey) and the Eternals open. Friday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

PETER MARGASAK

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

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