Gourds | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Stadium Blitzer (Watermelon), the second album by Austin's Gourds, is one of the most maddening records I've heard this year. You'd probably call it country--it is dominated by wheezing accordions, sturdy acoustic guitar strumming, palsied banjo plucking, and the baying-at-the-moon vocals of Claude Bernard and Kevin Russell--but the Gourds rarely limit themselves to a single idiom in any song. "Maria," for example, borrows from flamenco, cowboy songs, and opera. Even if you can actually make out the lyrics--their first album was appropriately called Dem's Good Beeble--there's no guarantee you'll understand what they're about (though I guess the gist of "I Like Drinking" is clear enough). Songwriter and bassist Jimmy Smith says the title track was inspired by something Bernard scrawled in pen on his wall in a drunken haze, and apparently even he doesn't know what it means. I hear traces of the early Ass Ponys in the Gourds' freewheeling looseness and bits of the Holy Modal Rounders in their seemingly absentminded old-timey deconstructions, but neither comparison does them justice. In fact, goofs like "I Ate the Haggis" and the bluegrass cover of Snoop Doggy Dogg's "Gin and Juice" notwithstanding, the Gourds have so many good ideas that soon they'll have no excuse not to create a masterpiece. Friday, 10:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK

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

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