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Friday 17

BETTER THAN EZRA This long-lived New Orleans band has its cult--proud fans call themselves the Ezralites--but most folks remember Better Than Ezra, if they do at all, as a pleasant B-list 90s adult-alternative act. Nothing's changed on their new album, Before the Robots (Artemis): ballads are their forte, soul is not, and if I need somebody to explain "A Southern Thing" to me, I'm asking the Drive-By Truckers. But their mix-CD-friendly pop rock has an earnest, glimmering breeziness, with the occasional flash of brilliance. Adam Richman opens. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $22.50, 18+. --Monica Kendrick

Saturday 18

ALKALINE TRIO It's taken these local punk-popsters the better part of a decade to hit on a sound that really suits them, but they've finally done it with their latest album, Crimson (Vagrant). They do have a bad habit of reaching for the Smiths' playbook when they're short on ideas, but that's perfect for the emotional load they're trying to carry--and for the first time their energetic pop rock is sturdy enough to handle any lyrical conceit they care to inflict on us. Crimson has cracked the Top 40, and its success is well deserved--something I can't say for most of its chartmates. Rufio and Thieves Like Us open. 7 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

EATS TAPES This San Francisco duo makes music the old-fashioned way: they jury-rig decrepit beatboxes, circuit-bent gadgets, and other banged-up junk, mount it all in a set of old suitcases, and tweak knobs until asses start wigglin' and titties start jigglin', or someone vomits. Recent signees to techno/weirdo label Tigerbeat6, they're set to put out their debut album, Sticky Buttons, later this summer; their unreleased demos sound like Take Your Kids to Work Day at Throbbing Gristle's studio, though they manage to hopscotch their way to a hot groove or two in the course of things. Reports say you can indeed dance to this stuff live, but when I try to imagine what type of dancing that would be, I need to lie down for a minute. Tussle headlines; the Watchers play second. 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --J. Niimi

MATSON JONES I had a couple good reasons to dislike this Colorado band before I'd even heard them. First, they make way too much of the fact that they're playing indie rock without guitars--instead they use two cellos, an upright bass, drums, and a touch of Casio. Second, one of the ladies with the cellos (they both sing too) is wearing those terrible Bettie Page lobotomy bangs in the CD-insert photo. All right, maybe they weren't such good reasons. But once I got to the music on Matson Jones's self-released 2004 debut--which Sympathy for the Record Industry reissued this month--it won me over. Though it's too pretty, arty, and controlled to qualify as "punk," no matter what the Denver Post says, it is taut and urgent and dripping with a fun, tear-in-my-merlot sort of melodrama. The vocals often sound like they're run through a harmonica mike, for a tasty "ex-girlfriend making threats on the answering machine" effect, while the low strings chug and throb like an overworked heart. The hooks aren't bad either, and just when the chamber-music instrumentation starts to feel ponderous, a dash of cheap synth lightens things up. The Floorbirds open and Office headlines. 9 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444, $8. --Ann Sterzinger

MAXIMO PARK A Certain Trigger (Warp), the debut full-length by this Newcastle quartet of postpunk revivalists, has a straight-from-the-factory polish that's less than appealing. But their frustrating-night-at-the-pub romanticism is set to a nice Pulp-y guitar crunch, and front man Paul Smith sounds determined to dig in his heels and stick around long enough to grow even more insightfully bitter. University plays second; Popsick, a new quartet featuring former Ponys member Ian Adams, opens. 6 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 866-468-3401, $10 in advance, $12 at door. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

Sunday 19

BOBBY "BLUE" BLAND Though he's primarily considered a blues singer, Bobby "Blue" Bland was also a key architect of soul music. During his heyday in the late 50s and early 60s, his thick voice could shift from a throat-tearing scream to a chocolate-rich plea within the course of a song; the tales of romantic and erotic infatuation in "I Pity the Fool," "Lead Me On," "Yield Not to Temptation," and other early tracks he recorded for the Houston label Duke Records helped define the wounded vulnerability of 60s soul men. Unfortunately his recent output for Malaco reflects the ravages of time all too clearly: he's so short of breath that his gospel-like wail, once spellbinding, has degenerated into a choked snort, and his wheezing is sometimes audible between verses. But he remains an energetic live performer, and his lovelorn ballads still smolder. 6 PM, East of the Ryan, 914 E. 79th, 773-874-1500, $30. --David Whiteis

NEKROMANTIX Since 1989 these Danes have stuck to sardonic, lusty, B-horror psychobilly, with the usual campy trappings: Kim Nekroman's coffin-shaped upright bass, song titles like "Backstage Pass to Hell," and so on. (Nekroman also likes to tweak Americans for acting like they have some special relationship with rock 'n' roll, but he recently moved to LA--uh-oh.) Last year's Dead Girls Don't Cry (Epitaph) is inconsistent, but I admire these guys' persistence; they cling to their own cliches with such a sweaty delight that they manage to reanimate them. The Henchmen (not to be confused with Detroit's Hentchmen) open. 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $11 in advance, $13 at the door. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

Monday 20

NIC ARMSTRONG & THE THIEVES I can't think of another band in the past decade that's done such a bang-up job re-creating the thumping pleasures of early-60s British rock as Nic Armstrong & the Thieves. Liam Watson, the analog maestro behind albums by the White Stripes and the Kills, produced the band's debut, The Greatest White Liar (New West), and he's appealingly time-warped the songs: Armstrong's guitar and Shane Lawlor's bass have a retro brittleness but still shake the floor, and Jonny Aitken's unassuming, Ringo Starr-like drumming occupies a different sonic space from the rest of the band, giving it an extra punch. Armstrong rips through his tunes with a snarling impatience that suggests a less monomaniacal Billy Childish; they're totally unoriginal of course, but he sincerely adores the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, and the Creation, and I've got to salute his unerring fidelity to the sounds of those groups' early records. Oasis headlines, Jet plays second. 7 PM, UIC Pavilion, 1150 W. Harrison, 312-413-5740 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages. --Peter Margasak

KILL THE VULTURES Formed by four former members of the Twin Cities group Oddjobs, Kill the Vultures sounds like an attack on the slickness of mainstream hip-hop: the brutally lean production style is almost lo-fi, and the rhymes echo the hectoring of Def Jux acts like Cannibal Ox and El-P. Anatomy's tracks are the most arresting thing about the group's eponymous debut, recorded for the Chicago-based Jib Door label--clattering, dissonant tumbles of pounding beats and truncated rhythmic samples pushed deep into the red. Some songs, like "The Vultures," built on a looped upright bass lick and martial rim shots, amplify that minimalism. Others morph unusual sources into hip-hop form to dazzling effect: the primal, stuttering beats and descending guitar patterns on "7-8-9" sound like they were swiped from an early Black Flag record. Whereas meticulous tinkering defined Oddjobs, a real sense of urgency comes through on Kill the Vultures. Dragons 1976, Yea Big, and Dr. Drase open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499. Free. --Peter Margasak

Tuesday 21

LORAXX Chicago enjoys an international reputation for three things: Al Capone, deep-dish pizza, and pigfuck noise rock. While the first two have actually killed people, the idea behind the latter is to fool you into thinking it could. Loraxx comes as close as anybody has on the recent Selfs (Automatic Combustioneer). Guitarist Arista Strungys is a walking Marshall stack; her vocals on "Choke Damp" make Lydia Lunch sound like Melissa Manchester. Bassist Jeff Lauras and drummer Elliott Talarico keep things simple and tight, leaving plenty of room for Strungys's knotty riffage and unhinged feedback blasts. "Three Witches on Brooms" is a crisis hotline operator's worst nightmare: a call-and-response between horrified vocal outbursts ("No one stalks me anymore / Nobody cures me anymore") and exquisitely timed guitar shitstorms. That gives way to some amazing bits where Strungys dispenses with lyrics and instead attempts to out-scream her amp. She wins. Failed Resistance, Big Whiskey, and the Its open. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $8. --J. Niimi

Wednesday 22

ARRIVE Reedist Aram Shelton plays with a thoughtfulness and structural rigor that's rare in a twentysomething jazz musician, but he also brings a deeply improvisational mind-set to each of his projects; in the trio Dragons 1976 (who open for Kill the Vultures on Monday) he cultivates an impeccable sense of space and dynamics, and in the electroacoustic duo Grey Ghost he makes sure that the computer elements stay integral to the music. The quartet Arrive isn't as well-known as those groups--that should change when 482 Music releases its debut this fall--but it's as good as anything Shelton's had a hand in. Its tightly arranged, emotionally muted originals have a lovely chamber-jazz feel, with musicians combining to repeat unison phrases and carve out spaces for solos; the pieces are elaborate yet never sound fussed over. Shelton's alto sax and Jason Roebke's bass often pair up within the ensemble, as do Tim Daisy's drums and Jason Adasiewicz's vibes, but the group is flexible enough to try different combinations. On the forthcoming debut, Adasiewicz is particularly impressive. Years ago I saw him beat his vibraphone like it was a drum kit and thought he needed to chill the fuck out; his playing on the record is more subtle, but when he does bring the hammer down, the weird metallic thrum he produces more than justifies the use of force. Shelton is moving to the Bay Area soon, so this'll probably be the last chance to hear Arrive for a while. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $6. --Peter Margasak

Thursday 23

BETH CARVALHO One of Brazil's greatest and most enduring singers, Beth Carvalho briefly flirted with bossa nova in the late 60s before moving on to samba; for the following decade or so, along with Clara Nunes and Alcione, she was considered one of Brazil's premier sambistas. In the mid-to-late 70s she was an early booster of pagode, a spin-off of samba with a more rustic approach and eclectic instrumentation; she mentored some of the musicians from that scene, like Zeca Pagodinho and Jorge Aragao, recording their songs and helping them land record deals. Since Nunes's premature death at 39 in 1982, Carvalho's practically gone unchallenged, but she hasn't rested on her laurels: she regularly pays homage to samba's masters (she's put out tributes to Cartola and Nelson Cavaquinho in recent years) and embraces their successors. What made her great more than three decades ago makes her great today: she has a smoky yet agile voice, favors rhythmically stoked arrangements, and merges her appreciation of Brazil's musical past with a keen ear for new developments. Carvalho rarely performs outside of Brazil; this is her Chicago debut. Jazzmineiro opens. 9 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-252-1728, $25 in advance, $30 at door, 16+ (16- and 17-year-olds must be accompanied by an adult). --Peter Margasak

EASY ACTION John Brannon is one of rock's all-time great howlers: he employed an ungodly screech in the proto-hardcore band Negative Approach and a vaguely bluesy wail in the mountain-wrecking Laughing Hyenas. He still sounds great on Friends of Rock & Roll (Reptilian), the second album from his Detroit-based band, Easy Action--his "singing" is all throat-shredding screams and subtle melodic movement a la Birthday Party-era Nick Cave. But he can't transcend the cliched tunes and the heavy-handed musicians playing them: guitarist Harold Richardson seems to play the exact same pedal-hopping wah-wah solo on every song. Red Villain and Smoke or Fire open. a 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 866-468-3401, $6 in advance, $8 at the door. --Peter Margasak

FEDERATION X Rally Day (Estrus), the upcoming fourth album from this Washington trio, has the loose-jointed, scruffy roar of a band that's done some hard traveling. They indulge in stoner-rock excess even while they seem suspicious of it, and the resulting tension powers their restless, punkish songs; if they're not in Scratch Acid mode they're getting their Sabbath on. Captured! by Robots headlines and Princess opens. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Monica Kendrick

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