Coughs | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Over the past three years these local noise pirates have gone highfalutin the way self-educated art-school dropouts sometimes do--without cleaning up a bit. The three girls and three boys in the Coughs still dress like they crawled out of a Dumpster and explode onstage like a tin can filled with firecrackers, but on their latest release, a split seven-inch with Night Wounds on the Not Not Fun label, there's a cool, muffled distance to what used to feel more like an everybody's-invited crash-punk party. Instead of jumping all over you they seem to be hanging back, making you prove you get it. But I still dig it. At first the guitar, bass, drums, and metal percussion shudder in unison while the sax whines aimlessly, like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum out of habit, not because he really thinks he'll get that BB gun. Then the repetition suddenly stops and everything sounds drop-tuned, sluggish, and aimless, like the same kid's been banished to his room and fallen into a subterranean infantile depression. The song's a pretty far cry from the Coughs' usual gnarly wrath--I mean, it has actual identifiable parts. But given the band's affinity for upheavals, aesthetic and otherwise--percussionist Jon Ziemba quit after this summer's marathon tour, then got talked into rejoining two weeks later--I guess the change shouldn't be that big a surprise. The Coughs headline, Lexie Mountain opens, and the Sand Cats--Rjyan Kidwell, aka Cex, with ex-Milemarker keyboardist Roby Newton--play second. Fri 2/10, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8.

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