Gaunt | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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This Columbus punk quartet seems to have put on a few pounds since signing to Warner Brothers. From 1991 to '94 Gaunt disgorged more than 30 songs on seven-inch singles and EPs. Its excellent 1994 album, I Can See Your Mom From Here--recorded in Chicago by Bob Weston in exchange for car parts and released by Thrill Jockey--breathed fire into the usual four-chord patterns with roaring guitars, rousing choruses, and distorted, barely audible vocals. With Kryptonite (1996) the band began to reach past the punk formula with brass and vocal harmonies, a strategy that apparently won it a spot on the Warners roster. Unfortunately, on the new Bricks and Blackouts, a production team of no fewer than six people has buffed and polished the band's furious punk into relentlessly ordinary, radio-ready guitar rock. "Anxiety," the opening track, could be a tune from Mom, but the vocals have been pushed way up in the mix, the out-of-control guitars rendered crisp and professional. Husker Du suffered exactly this kind of makeover when it signed to Warners in the mid-80s, but Gaunt songwriter Jerry Wick hasn't come up with the stellar material that rescued Husker Du's major-label releases. The leisurely "97th Tear" (a reference to "96 Tears," the proto-garage single by ? and the Mysterians) unfurls a lame pop chorus that could have been hatched by any number of hair-metal acts. "Powder Keg Variety," an older song by guitarist Jovan Karcic, yields a strong chorus, and the band recaptures some of its vehemence on "Glitter," "Duh," and "Honor Roll." But the shrieking rage that fueled the earlier records has either dissipated or been groomed away; if Bricks and Blackouts achieves nothing else, perhaps it will dispel the pernicious myth that Warner Brothers is an artist-friendly label. Live, I'm told, the band still smokes; here's hoping Gaunt shakes off its shiny new handcuffs for this show. Nashville Pussy headlines. Saturday, 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. J.R. JONES

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Sonya Koscoff.

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