Flamboyant Chicago rockers Cupcakes reunite to celebrate their debut album 20 years after it arrived | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Flamboyant Chicago rockers Cupcakes reunite to celebrate their debut album 20 years after it arrived

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The alternative-rock boom of the 1990s resulted in lots of outre musicians landing major-label deals that would’ve been unthinkable in any decade before or since. Chicago four-piece Cupcakes, who emerged in 1996, both exemplify and transcend that era. On their sole album, 2000’s Cupcakes, released on Dreamworks, they mold arena rock bombast, power-pop hooks, and dance ecstasy into freewheeling jams whose clean polish glistens even when the songwriting doesn’t quite shine. Front man Preston Graves frequently busts out a show-stopping falsetto that kicks the songs into hyperdrive, a vocal feat that stood out in a time of postgrunge front men who were more likely to bellow than croon. But Cupcakes’ idiosyncratic ingenuity comes out most strongly in their blend of rock and electronic music—every so often an arpeggiating guitar line that evokes a trance melody cuts through to accentuate the interstellar panache in Graves’s lyrics. Cupcakes have been dormant for most of the past two decades, but they decided to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their only album with a reunion performance. Even if Graves can no longer hit the high notes on the semi-acoustic ballad “Cosmic Imbecile,” this is a don’t-miss show.   v

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