Alex Chilton | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Alex Chilton

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Lester Bangs said that the Velvet Underground "invented the 70s." That's an exaggeration--they'd have done a better job--but it's no more of one to say that Alex Chilton invented the 80s a decade early. Stuck inside of Memphis with the downwardly mobile blues, Chilton turned from teenage Box Top to torrid iconoclast. His signature band, Big Star, prefigured a huge portion of what now passes as modern, from the skewered whitebread melodicism of R.E.M. and Game Theory to the spontaneous combustion of the Replacements. After disappearing into the ozone for years, Chilton has stepped out in style. Rather than aping his past and baring his soul, Chilton's recent records are more comic than cosmic, serving a snappy, unpretentious Memphis soul stew full of ragtag bohemians, dancing Dalai Lamas, and swingers afraid of AIDS. Who else would set up an instrumental break in a song about unemployment by saying "OK boys, let's get fired now"? On a good night, you'll hear inspired performances of timeless songs. On a bad night, you'll still get an affable nutcase with a canny band delivering Spuds McKenzie's head on a platter. Wednesday, Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison; 327-1662.

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

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