Drones, Favourite Sons, Devastations | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Drones, Favourite Sons, Devastations

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On Gala Mill (ATP), the fourth full-length from Australia's DRONES, the tunes move at a patient crawl, buffeted by a storm-tossed sea of seething guitar, their Crazy Horse howl only occasionally quieting to let through a sliver of delicate folk rock. But no matter how punishingly noisy or molasses slow they get, they never feel murky or sluggish; the band creates tension and urgency with a keen melodic sense and cunning deployment of sonic space. And front man Gareth Liddiard sings in a poetic wail that suggests he's survived on a steady diet of top-shelf Australian rock--it's like a cross between the tortured croon of Nick Cave and the psychotic harangues of the Scientists' Kim Salmon. Not to damn them with faint praise, but the Drones are the best rock band I've heard from down under since the Dirty Three. --Peter Margasak

I learned two surprising things from the FAVOURITE SONS tune "No One Ever Dies Young." First, Vice Records is now putting out bands that jack moves from late-era Pavement, and second, I can actually dig stuff that sounds like late-era Pavement--I didn't like the goofy crap on Brighten the Corners the first time around. None of the rest of the Sons' new Down Beside Your Beauty is quite so Malkmusian, but that's probably a good thing. The smeary, Strokes-ish style they work on the other tracks, which combine a loose, hungover swagger with driving protopunk rhythms, definitely suits them better--and it doesn't bring back any of the memories of endless, inescapable conversations with record-store dudes that I've kept comfortably suppressed for the past ten years. Down Beside Your Beauty doesn't go anywhere near uncharted territory, but with new musical subgenres being invented every single day, being able to take something as played out as earnest guitar rock and make it work this well is almost as impressive as inventing a style of your own. --Miles Raymer

The Australian trio the DEVASTATIONS, now based in Berlin, scored a testimonial sticker from Karen O on the cover of their debut, Coal (Brassland), where she calls the record the best thing she's heard all year. The music is smoky, tremulous cabaret of the Bad Seeds variety, though front man Conrad Standish sounds less like Nick Cave and more like Stuart Staples of Tindersticks--except maybe when he's drily dropping inky black lyrics like "My mother / She was a whore." --Jessica Hopper

The Drones headline, the Favourite Sons play second, and the Devastations open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10.

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