Fruit Bats, Iran, Kevin Barker | Schubas | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Fruit Bats, Iran, Kevin Barker Critic's Choice Early Warnings (Music) Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Sun., Sept. 20, 7 p.m. and Mon., Sept. 21, 8 p.m. 2009

Former Chicagoan Eric Johnson has long thrived as a sideman—he first made his mark in Califone, and more recently he’s been part of Vetiver’s live lineup and joined the Shins as a full-time member. But his erstwhile home-recording project the FRUIT BATS has been a proper band (albeit an intermittent one) since 2000, and as a leader he favors rustic, sunny pop-rock and pastoral reveries. It’s been five years since the group’s previous album, but on the new The Ruminant Band (Sub Pop) they pick up right where they left off: their sound is still invitingly lived-in, and Johnson is still singing about romance and nostalgia in his sweet, high-pitched voice. On “Beautiful Morning Light” he invites his lover to join him up in a tree to enjoy “the foggy waning dawn,” and the narrator in “Singing Joy to the World” describes a brief, largely unrequited romance that’s forever linked in his memory to songs by Three Dog Night and Prince. The Fruit Bats’ melodies are stuck in the 70s, their rollicking tunefulness untouched by cynicism (and by any style of the past two decades), and the band’s current lineup—which includes drummer Graeme Gibson, who also produced the new record—brings them to life in unfussy arrangements that readily give up their pleasures to anyone who can still listen to the Drive unironically. —Peter Margasak

Of course people are going to compare Brooklyn duo IRAN to TV on the Radio: Kyp Malone is half the band, and their full-length from February, Dissolver (Narnack), works the same shadowy-sensual turf that TVOTR has basically trademarked. But it’s more enlightening to look at the differences between the two groups. Most of the songs revolve around the vocals of Iran’s other half, Aaron Aites (co­director of the recent black-metal documentary Until the Light Takes Us), and though he’s going for lush and soulful like Malone or Tunde Adebimpe, his voice is weaker and he strains a little for the high notes. Most front men would suffer in comparison to TVOTR’s, of course, so that hardly means Aites is a bad singer—his style is well suited to the songs’ ramshackle feel. Iran’s ambitious sonic palette includes synth, organ, piano, and layers and layers of guitar, but in another departure from the TVOTR template, underneath all those overdubs the songs are actually pretty straightforward. With their slanted, bummed-out vibe and occasional snatch of classic rock (there are quite a few ripping guitar solos, sometimes recorded in reverse), they sound like Sebadoh tunes run through a steam press. —Miles Raymer

The Fruit Bats headline; Iran and Kevin Barker open. The Fruit Bats play a free in-store at 3 PM today at Reckless Records, 1532 N. Milwaukee.

Price: $14, $12 in advance.

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