U.S. Maple | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

U.S. Maple 

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Ugly rock just ain't as ugly as it used to be. Back in the mid-80s when bored midwesterners like Big Black and Die Kreuzen first swung from punk to puke, the racket had a real weight to it, but their countless imitators inevitably diminished the impact. One new breed of noiseniks, claiming jazz as an influence, began orchestrating elaborate mathematical solutions to this grimy rock dilemma. Listening to Don Caballero, for instance, was like watching someone use a jackhammer with the precision of a surgeon. But U.S. Maple has other, better ideas about breaking up rock. The foursome's brand-new Sang Phat Editor (Skin Graft) further breaks down the prickly, Beefheartian morass of its 1996 debut, creating a din tightly arranged so as to simulate pure chaos. But it's not so much ugly as utterly disorienting. Drummer Pat Samson plays in lurching spasms; his explosive heaves seem to chase a steady beat but are continually drawn off course by Tourette-like interruptions. Guitarists Mark Shippy and Todd Rittman likewise have little regard for regularity. Angular patterns and lockstep riffs sputter along, then disintegrate, only to reemerge in some new guise. And "singer" Al Johnson continues to develop his singular vocal style, a curious mix of wheezing and choking, falsetto cries, and sandpaper croons. There isn't another guitar band around that can make antimusic like this. Saturday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 773-525-6620. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Todd Rittmann.

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