Sue Garner | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sue Garner 

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Sue Garner started making records under her own name in 1998, after playing bass for most of the 80s and 90s in New York art-rock bands like Fish & Roses and Run On. Her songs have often grappled with homely personal subjects such as her maternal longings and the difficulty of making art and paying the bills. But on her superb new album, Shadyside (Thrill Jockey), other lyricists help her expand her subject matter. She still pens tunes like "Don't Still the Flicker"--where she sings, "We can call it compromise / We can call it getting wise / Move a little closer, we do / Good side by side"--that broadly address aging and how it's led her to adjust her expectations. But Amanda Uprichard, her former bandmate in the Shams, explores nostalgia ("These Old Walls"), poet Fay Hart struggles with life's uncertainty ("Old Women"), and Jonathan Thomas hauls out the old bitter-skinned, sweet-fleshed grape metaphor for his advice on how to take the good with the bad ("Handful of Grapes"). Musically, Garner's tunefulness is usually offset by tightly coiled grooves, veiled by harsh instrumental textures, or prodded from below by subtle details. The front-porch charm of "Old Women," which gets a lift from Ted Reichman's zydeco accordion, is countered by Rick Brown's stuttering drum machine manips, while Garner's soothing vocal on "Yes" bobs atop a jumble of zigzagging guitar, spare percussion, and tiptoeing bass. Despite virtually no harmonic movement, "Beach" pulses rapidly, driven by phase-shifting shaker loops while electronic squiggles, airy kalimba, and Marc Ribot's choppy funk and quasi-African pop riffs eddy around Garner's sung-spoken phrases. For this performance Garner will play guitar; she's joined by Brown on drums and electronics, Reichman on accordion, bass, and guitar, and Doug Wieselman on clarinet and guitar. The Eternals open. Saturday, October 19, 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; 773-227-4433.

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

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