In David Grubbs's hands the pop-song format is a boomerang; he can throw it away, but it always comes back. On Gastr del Sol's 1993 debut LP, The Serpentine Similar (on Teenbeat, with bassist Bundy K. Brown), he sang elliptical verses over sparse, jittery tunes. Then the Louisville-raised U. of C. grad student joined forces with multi-instrumentalist Jim O'Rourke, and Gastr del Sol's next four releases--two albums and two EPs--cast aside conventional forms in favor of discontinuous structures and deconstructive experiments. But by the time Grubbs and O'Rourke made their final record as Gastr, Camoufleur (Drag City), the boomerang had returned and the band was trafficking in Beach Boys-inspired lyricism. Though Grubbs employs some of his old band's trademarks on The Thicket, his first album since the group's demise--microtonal violinist Tony Conrad contributes drones to four tracks, passages for voice and banjo jump-cut to brass-band excursions, and Grubbs hasn't lost his knack for penning elusive lyrics--the novel textures and jarring transitions only serve to spotlight some of the cheeriest and most memorable melodies Grubbs has ever written. Much of The Thicket's charm lies in its colorful arrangements, so for this solo show Grubbs will flesh out his guitar and banjo with backing tracks played on CD. Speed to Roam opens and Plush (see Spot Check) headlines. Saturday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Bill Meyer
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by james Crump-RSP.