Frogs | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Brothers Jimmy and Dennis Flemion infiltrated popular consciousness in the early 1990s via superstar fans and collaborators like Billy Corgan, who produced some of their records, Beck, who's sampled them, and Pearl Jam, who put them on the B side of one of their singles. After a self-released debut in '88, the Frogs got on the fast track to cult infamy with their 1989 album of possibly sincere "gay supremacist" music, It's Only Right and Natural. Racially Yours, with offensive songs written from both black and white perspectives (the brothers are white, but whether they're really bigots has been the subject of much debate), was recorded in '91 but went unreleased until Four Alarm picked it up in 2000. Lost in the fuss about the band's personae and subject matter (sample titles: "Sailors Board Me Now," "Which One of You Gave My Daughter the Dope?") is the genuine weirdness of the records they make; the cumulative effect of the compulsively outrageous lyrics and the often outsider-art-like music is at least as creepy as it is funny. On the Frogs' latest, 2001's Hopscotch Lollipop Sunday Surprise (Scratchie), they've traded some of the convincing dementia of their home-taping days for a tightened-up pop sound, but on tracks ranging from the beatific "Better Than God" ("Every one of you / Is better than God") to the psychedelic "Enter I" to the heartfelt "Nipple Clamps" ("Wear them like you mean it"), their trademark sensibility is on full display. Rare live appearances are spectacles featuring Jimmy in giant sequined bat wings, Dennis in half-drag, great guitar solos, and plenty of bitchy, semideranged bickering. They're guest stars at this edition of Rory Lake's Battle of the Bands; the contenders are New Black, the Dutchmen, the Drapes, and No Doctors. I only wish Dennis were judging: he makes American Idol's Simon Cowell look like a teddy bear. Saturday, January 24, 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton; 773-975-0505.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.

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