Barbie Army | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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It's a little surprising to me how good these women are, because, in some ways, the promo tape they sent me is no different from all those tapes I've heard by local, run-of-the-mill underground bar bands who do little else than go through the motions. For one thing, their musical wardrobe contains some pretty standard underground styles: folkie Nuggets-era pop, a bit of early 70s glitter rock, some cowpoke country here and doom 'n' gloom punk there, typical garagey stuff like that. For another, much of their appeal, just like that of so many underground bands, comes from external factors over which they have little or no control: in their case, it's in their high, thin, girlish voices, which, struggling to be heard over Jean Lyons's loud, rough-and-tumble guitar, really do sound like a Barbie army. But instead of the so-what boredom that usually sets in after the initial appeal of gutsy, all-too-human amateurism wears off, this group's all-around smarts make that gutsy appeal stick and click. For a change, they intelligently mix commitment, humor, and watch-out attitude in equal proportion, so when they crack a joke they don't throw away their drive, when they wax romantic they don't get too serious or fluff-headed, and when they pick a particular style for a particular song, it sounds like they actually know why they did so (it makes a difference, you know). In short, gutsiness genuinely gets tough, and they live up to their great name in more ways than one. Saturday, Batteries Not Included, 2201 N. Clybourn; 348-9529.

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