June of 44 | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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June of 44 edged away from its abrasive indie-rock roots on last year's impressive Four Great Points, subtly employing electronics and strings, turning down the volume, and occasionally breaking free of ye olde four-four, but on the recent Anahata (released, like all the band's work, by Quarterstick), the quartet has convincingly taken the leap. I still wouldn't call the music anything but rock, but guitarist Jeff Mueller and company have managed to find new wrinkles in the threadbare fabric. While Mueller isn't much of a singer he's learned to exploit the voice he does have, expressing a greater range of emotions than before but never resorting to screaming. His breathiness on the shuffling "Equators to Bi-Polar" is a bit precious, but on "Cardiac Atlas" his strained rasp mingles perfectly with guest player Julie Liu's brooding viola to translate the sentiment of the lyrics (a man uses a "map of arteries" to camp out above his lover's heart) into notes. Doug Scharin's crisp, propulsive drumming has always distinguished June of 44 to a certain degree, but here he's truly the band's linchpin: he packs plenty of punch into more extroverted stuff, like "Wear Two Eyes (Boom)" and "Escape of the Levitational Trapeze Artist," without any obvious hard-rock tactics, and on slower, more ethereal pieces he's what holds the songs together. Proof that rock needn't be reduced to power chords to survive. Thursday, August 26, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK

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

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