Grifters | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Manipulating gutbuckety noise, hook-laden melody, and deliberate obscurantism, Memphis's Grifters have forged a striking sound that exploits the notion of tension-and-release. Over the course of three albums--and especially on the recent Crappin' You Negative (Shangri-La)--this quartet has taken unusually strong and oddly arranged melodies full of jarring twists, shifts, and explosions and managed to disfigure them further. While the music on their debut, So Happy Together (Sonic Noise), tended to bury the band's catchiness under tons of purely extraneous, almost defensive sound, the new stuff employs disjointed structures, heavily fractured classic rock 'n' roll riffs (a la the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), and cheapo distortion drizzle with purpose--as distractions that make the hooks more elusive. The band makes you muck around in the sonic quagmire so that when you do manage to catch a snippet of melody it's offset by the trashy aural ephemera surrounding it, a process that yields some fine high drama. Live the Grifters play somewhat straighter, but it's still good digging. Friday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

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