When: Fri., Dec. 2, 9 p.m. 2016
I first caught the Cell Phones at the Paper Machete, the weekly “live magazine” at the Green Mill, and it was like walking into an unexpected gust of wind—though the Chicago three-piece are much more enjoyable than getting blasted in the face by a cold front. Leader Lindsey Charles belts out her parts like a doo-wop starlet reared on hardcore, bassist Ryan Szeszycki unspools limber and noisy melodies with aplomb, and drummer (and magician) Justin Purcell hits the skins like a grindcore fanatic on a sugar high. Their rambunctious, playful songwriting allows their songs to breathe and careen wildly, giving the impression of unpredictability despite the band’s tightness as a unit. Still, while I was immediately captivated by their live sound, their recorded output sounded flat and thin by comparison. Fortunately, the Cell Phones’ new album No (No Trend) does a much better job of capturing their lightning-in-a-bottle energy—they can make even the most mundane subject matter feel alive. An erratic assault on drone-worker life, “9 to 5” is a perfect example of how, though the Cell Phones live in our world, their response to what’s around us remains their own.