Aluminum Group | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Brothers Frank and John Navin have always adulterated their breezy pop with a dose of black humor, but on the Aluminum Group's new Morehappyness (Wishing Tree) they make the search for love sound not just futile but outright destructive. On "Little Boy" John plays the part of an obsessed ex-boyfriend, singing, "Love is a switch you turn on then off / When I broke the door in, you called the cops." The narrator of "Colored Town" calls himself a "little girlie" and fetishizes his lover's black skin, and the protagonist of "Wheat and Tare" pretends to be white-collar in a hopeless attempt to attract an affluent man. As usual, though, the Navins deliver their bitter lyrics like easy-listening crooners--it's easy to imagine them looking down on all this misery and derangement from floating chaise longues. The new record (like its predecessor, Happyness) backs away from the virtuosic but somewhat fussy production of albums like Pedals and Pelo; it's more stripped-down and direct, clothing the brothers' voices in little more than delicate guitar, gauzy piano, and understated synthesizer. In the studio the Navins were supported by a large cast of well-known Chicagoans, including John McEntire, Doug McCombs, Bill Lowman, and Sam Prekop; at this gig they'll be joined by a pianist, a female backup singer, and members of promising local pop group the Changes. It'll be a relief to see the brothers share a stage with other humans--for more than a year now they've been performing as a duo, with John controlling all the backing tracks from an iPod in his breast pocket. Saturday, May 8, 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000. The brothers will play a free iPod set in the new Borders Books & Music at 4718 N. Broadway on Friday, May 7, at 8 PM; 773-334-7338.

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