Music » Soundboard

The List, September 3-9, 2009

Critics' Choices and other notable concerts: Dead Meadow, Polvo, Ahmad Jamal, the Race, the Spits, Chris Corsano, and more

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Bryan Scary & the Shredding Tears
Dead Meadow


Ahmad Jamal
Lucky 7s
The Race


Happy Mondays


Chris Corsano, Thrones
King Wilkie


BRYAN SCARY & THE SHREDDING TEARS Great lyrics can make a pop band. If it weren't for the dramatic urgency of their story lines, Brooklyn theater rocker Bryan Scary and his backing group, the Shredding Tears, could fairly be accused—despite their skill and energy—of merely filching and pasting together scraps from Queen, the Beatles, various psych and prog rockers, and perhaps the Banana Splits. But the smooth blend of tragedy and whimsy in lines like "Have you ever watched a life / Go spinning down an omnipresent drain? . . . It's so absurd / Tried to get to heaven on a little bird!" (from last year's Flight of the Knife) helps tie together the band's exuberantly excessive pastiches and even makes their occasional eruptions of bombast feel necessary and appropriate. A new EP, Mad Valentines (Simian/Old Flame), is due October 27, and though of course it's less epic than Scary's two albums, it'll tide me over till the next full-on salvo. Very Truly Yours and Computer Perfection open. 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $12, $10 in advance. —Ann Sterzinger

DEAD MEADOW Stoner-rock avatars Dead Meadow have slimmed down to a power trio, but their fat, rubbery sound hasn't lost any of its bluesy bombast in the process. They seem oblivious to the passage of time, still riding the heavy train that Iron Butterfly, Cream, Sir Lord Baltimore, and Hawkwind set in motion. That doesn't mean they're oblivious for the need for new product, though—their most recent studio album is still last year's Old Growth, but they're working on an old-fashioned feature-length concert film called Three Kings. (They've moved from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, so maybe they think they have to make a movie now.) There's a trailer up on their MySpace page, and I'm getting a distinct Song Remains the Same vibe, probably mostly from the footage of the band wandering around in hooded druid robes. Despite all the vintage-colored self-indulgence and the whiffs of 70s hippie neopagan cheesiness, Dead Meadow's hazy, smoky, languidly violent music can achieve an eerie beauty that transcends era, and onstage they're a fiercely disciplined rock machine—in other words, don't hold your breath for a dwarf trampling a miniature Stonehenge. Follows and the Great Society Mind Destroyers open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12 (limited $8 tickets). —Monica Kendrick

  • Ashley Worley
  • Polvo

POLVO Polvo's moment was a long time ago: their reign over the indie-rock dominion lasted maybe four years in the mid-90s, peaking with 1996's Exploded Drawing, with all its punchy riffs and angles and meandering guitar queerness. They repurposed the archness of Sonic Youth and fused it with the languor of southern art-rock, and people loved them for it; then the moment passed and everybody got into remixes, forgetting about post-punk and moving on to post-rock. When Polvo announced their reunion shows last year, at first they seemed like just another zombified 90s band, rising from the grave to come calling, coffers out to reap the payoff of their old fans' nostalgia. That is, until "Beggar's Bowl," the maniacal and deeply satisfying single off their new album, In Prism (due this week on Merge), dropped in June. There's really only one way to say it: Polvo are back and badder than ever. The Poison Arrows and Haymarket Riot open. 9 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $15. —Jessica Hopper


AHMAD JAMAL Ahmad Jamal's 2008 album It's Magic (Dreyfus) is, like most of the pianist's records, an impressive demonstration of how the fundamental elements of jazz mechanics can become satisfying focal points in and of themselves. Jamal uses his sleek band, essentially a piano trio plus a second percussionist, to exert his mastery over tempo, density, and volume, manipulating them like the terms of an algebraic equation—but thankfully his equations have swing and soul. He treats both originals and standards like streams of information to be digested, broken apart, and reassembled; this kind of deconstruction is a familiar part of jazz, but Jamal and his band focus on it with a joyful zeal that animates the music with the spark of novelty. Jamal is joined by longtime bassist James Cammack, percussionist Manolo Badrena, and brilliant drummer Kenny Washington. This set is part of the African Festival of the Arts. 8:45 PM, Washington Park, 51st and Cottage Grove, 773-955-2878, $15, $10 in advance, $5 seniors over 65 and children under 12. —Peter Margasak

Lucky 7s
  • Lucky 7s

LUCKY 7s The Lucky 7s recorded their first album, Farragut, the same week they made their live debut in early 2006—the band had formed when New Orleans trombonist Jeff Albert and two Katrina refugees who'd come to Chicago, drummer Quin Kirchner and bassist Matthew Golombisky, threw in their lot with veteran local trombinist Jeb Bishop. Given how new they were to each other at that session, it's only natural that they sound much stronger and more unified on their recent sophomore effort, Pluto Junkyard (Clean Feed). Albert and Bishop wrote the lion's share of the tunes, but Kirchner and saxophonist Keefe Jackson contribute as well, giving the album an impressive stylistic diversity, and the band makes much greater use of its size and range, driving each song with thrilling counterpoint harmonically rich vamps; in particular the four-horn front line, which also includes cornetist Josh Berman, sounds even bigger than it is. The starkly minimalist framework of Jackson's "Cultural Baggage" throws the extroverted solos from Berman and Jackson—who sounds as wild and ecstatic as I've ever heard him—into thrillingly sharp relief, and Bishop's elegant "Jaki's Walk" cycles its sophisticated theme through episodes of varying rhythmic intensity, from serene to aggressive, with Jason Adasiewicz's spiky vibraphone holding them all together. This is the group's first local performance since April 2008. 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested. —Peter Margasak

THE RACE The Race's previous full-length, 2007's Ice Station, was just as bright and cheerful as you'd expect a record inspired by Siberia to be, but compared to their new Exiles (St. Ives) it sounds relatively sunny. It's another set of songs based on a theme—a kind of Judeo-gothic electric western, to paraphrase guitarist, front man, and sole constant member Craig Klein—but the mood and sound have evolved from "the Postal Service gone goth" (as I once described Ice Station) into something much darker and wilder. The album opener, "Black Boat," is a dense blast of thudding drums and grinding synths that sounds like stripper music from a titty bar in hell; Klein howls like a well-tormented man, with his usual tenor forced down into an uncomfortable baritone whose shakiness heightens the mood of derangement in the lyrics, which recount a man's descent into madness. And Exiles barely comes up for air after that—it keeps up a steady barrage of matte-black electro-blues and psychedelicized apocalyptic imagery. This is a release party. Bloodiest opens; Brian Case and Joe Proulx spin. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $3. —Miles Raymer

SPITS Not only has Kalamazoo, Michigan, given the world a surprising number of abnormally large Dutch people, it's also produced the best garage-punk band (shit, the best band, period) of the decade: the Spits. Sure, they owe an obvious creative debt to the Ramones, but the sound they've evolved—ultracatchy vocals that fall somewhere between a bark and a chant, frantic ticking-time-bomb hi-hat, dystopian robot-queef keyboards, and simple, thrashy guitar and bass parts that belong on the soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic skateboard video—is like nobody else's. Not since Leave Home has a record stayed in my personal rotation the way every single Spits album has. Brothers and core members Sean and Erin Wood—they play guitar and bass, respectively, and share vocals—present a loutish cave-brah exterior, but they crank out dumb-smart, funny-serious post-juvie punk about hanging out and hanging on, making great music out of bad times as well as good. The brothers relocated to Seattle early in the decade, and then in '04 Erin moved to LA, which slowed the band down—their fourth and latest self-titled album (released by Recess and Thriftstore, it's usually called "School's Out") is their first in five years. But the winning formula stays the same—ten songs, 15 minutes, and lyrics about blowing up your teacher's car, living in a van, and ripping up the streets on your skateboard. Woven Bones and Mother of Tears open. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $13, $10 in advance. —Brian Costello


HAPPY MONDAYS Sometimes the mythology a band builds around itself grows to dwarf its music, so that the records draw their vitality from the stories in a sort of symbiosis—think of GG Allin or, to pick a current example, Monotonix. The Happy Mondays probably passed that point well before front man Shaun Ryder seized the master tapes of the band's in-progress fourth album, 1992's Yes Please!, and held them hostage to extort drug money from their label. But the passing years have helped flesh out the Mondays' legacy, so it's not just about their lunatic exploits anymore. These days their contributions to early rave culture—which is finally starting to be taken seriously—and their ever-so-briefly phenomenal music are almost getting equal time. Of course whether they'll be able to live up to that legacy in their current condition—Ryder is middle-aged and allegedly rehabilitated, and the band's lineup is vastly different—remains to be seen. The Psychedelic Furs headline; the Happy Mondays and Amusement Parks on Fire open. 8 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $26.50-$28, 17+. —Miles Raymer


Chris Corsano - JENNY@CAPSULE
  • Jenny@Capsule
  • Chris Corsano

CHRIS CORSANO, THRONES If I told you that percussionist CHRIS CORSANO is equally persuasive playing ultradetailed free improv with Evan Parker, scorched-earth electric raga jams with Mick Flower, and primal dance beats with Bjork, I'd be telling the truth but selling him short. His excellent 2006 solo album, The Young Cricketer (reissued last year on Family Vineyard), covers still more ground—he's also a hell of a one-man band. Augmenting his drum kit with a heap of odds and ends—kitchen implements, a violin, a couple bows, saxophone mouthpieces blown into plastic tubes—he creates scalding Tony Conrad-like string assaults, intricate layered gamelan-style patterns, reed-and-percussion freak-outs that sound like something lifted off a forgotten ESP free-jazz record, and a delicate collage of chiming and rustling you could almost mistake for a surreptitiously recorded tea ceremony. Corsano is also great to watch—sometimes a marvelous vision of fluid and purposeful motion, sometimes an outrageous ham. —Bill Meyer

Bassist Joe Preston is at heart a lone ranger. He'll throw his lot in with a band for a while—often helping it in ways we don't fully appreciate till he's gone—but he always ends by riding off into the sunset, leaving us asking, "Who was that occasionally bearded man?" Over the years the beneficiaries of his bassitude have included Earth, the Melvins, High on Fire, and Harvey Milk, but his natural environment—his Fortress of Solitude, if you will—is the one-man project THRONES. Preston writes slowly, and the most recent new Thrones album was almost a decade ago. Thankfully, he finds other outlets: the latest is Cerberic Doxology (Anthem/Discourage), a monster drone piece he did with Portland-based sound wizard Daniel Menche. The CD version, which came out last year, is a "Dual Disc" with a DVD on the flip; the brand-new vinyl version has the music from the CD on one side and 20 locked grooves on the other. Preston may come and go like a tumbleweed, but you can keep his music playing till your turntable gives out. —Monica Kendrick

This is the first night of the Adventures in Modern Music festival. Caroliner headlines; Corsano, Thrones, and Haptic open. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15, five-day pass $50.

KING WILKIE "Moon and Sun," the opening track from The Wilkie Family Singers (Casa Nueva), harks back to King Wilkie's bluegrass past with its clawhammer banjo and ragged fiddling, but the mellow folk pop of the next tune, "Goodbye Rose," announces a major change. Multi-instrumentalist and sole constant member Reid Burgess moved from Nashville to New York after King Wilkie's second album, 2007's Low Country Suite, and though that record did show hints of melancholy folk rock, on the new disc the band is remade in both aesthetic and lineup. Recorded with a slew of high-powered guests that includes Peter Rowan, Robyn Hitchcock, and Abigail Washburn, The Wilkie Family Singers presents itself as a musical story about the fictional Wilkie family—there are illustrations of the characters in the liner notes and backstories on the band's Web site—but a close reading of the lyrics isn't necessary to appreciate its virtues. Though the album's juggling of folk rock, soft rock, soul, and twang can be jarring at times (and I wish the music was a little toothier), Burgess proves it's not always a bad idea for a bluegrass band to go off script. John Wesley's Band opens. 8 PM, SPACE, 1245 Chicago, Evanston, 847-492-8860 or 866-468-3401, $14, $10 in advance. —Peter Margasak

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