Chris Knox | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Chris Knox


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For over 20 years, singer and guitarist Chris Knox has made it his business to get under people's skins, even if it means starting with his own: in the late 70s, when he fronted the New Zealand proto-punk bands Toy Love and the Enemy, he was notorious for bloodying his chest with broken bottles during shows. These days, both on his own and in Tall Dwarfs--his lo-fi pop duo with Toy Love's Alec Bathgate--he goes for the same effect with his lyrics. Fifty Flavours of Glue, the Dwarfs' latest, kicks off with "Gluey, Gluey," a fond catalog of all the sticky things that ooze from humans; on Knox's 1989 solo album, Seizure, he gives thanks for his own epilepsy in a song called "Grand Mal"; and the clueless narrator of "The Man in the Crowd," from Knox's brand-new Thirsty Ear release, Beat, just wants us to admire his hard-on. Knox also delights in discomfiting his audience a little more directly: at a Lounge Ax show I saw, he peeled off a fan's socks, then tried to eat them. The last thing you'd expect him to do is soberly address a big-picture topic like mortality, but he has the depth to pull it off: "Becoming Something Other," also from Beat, draws a moving, no-nonsense portrait of a man coming to terms with his father's final decline. Knox, who's also a cartoonist, writer, and video maker, is a limited but effective musician. At 48 years old, he bashes out rudimentary guitar chords with more fervor than most punks half his age, and he has a knack for extracting the perfect cheesy beat from an old drum machine or cheap keyboard. Knox's most flexible instrument, though, is his voice, which can slide effortlessly from a tender croon to an ugly sneer. Monday, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.


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