The Organ | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Organ 

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I'm tired of the way current alt-rock bands get dismissed as postpunk revivalists. Generations X and Y are supposed to be suspicious of canonization, but everywhere you look, bands with great songwriting chops are getting herded into the long shadows of their "authentic" progenitors--Interpol is just second-rate Joy Division, the Killers are nicking the Cars, and half the bands between the Hudson and the English Channel owe royalties to Gang of Four. The Drive's smug rhetoric about "the greatest music ever made" is clearly intended to flatter baby boomers weaned on Zeppelin and CCR, but by now the early output of artists like the Smiths, Blondie, and R.E.M. is just as canonical--it's a permanent part of rock, and we can stop talking about bands "reviving" it. The concise, hooky songs on the Organ's latest, last year's Grab That Gun (Mint), are tricked out in sleek, austere early-80s finery--wiry Peter Buck-style arpeggio riffs, implacable New Order bass lines, and the dancy, dejected bounce-and-jangle of early Smiths--but it feels less like calculated nostalgia and more like a natural match for the doleful voice and lovely, embittered lyrics of singer Katie Sketch. Nobody in this all-female Vancouver quintet is old enough to remember much of Reagan's first term, and the organist was still in swaddling clothes when Murmur came out. But Sketch often sounds like a more chaste Debbie Harry, and her quivering, melodramatic delivery is like less effeminate Morrissey. On "No One Has Ever Looked So Dead" she sings, "And in the backseat of your car / You showed me every single star / And how the zenith and the sounds / Change in every single town," which almost resurrects my own nostalgia for sadder, crazier times--but then I remember that this music isn't about me, and that these ladies are living those times right now. TRS-80 and the Sparrow open. Sun 4/24, 9 PM, Subterranean Cafe & Cabaret, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $8.

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

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