Major Stars | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Major Stars have always had the power of a wrecking ball, but there's no denying that on their last album, 4, they sounded like they'd hit a wall they couldn't obliterate. Great as the record was, it stuck to a well-established formula: Wayne Rogers would sing a beautifully melancholy tune, which then gave way to a lengthy gale-force freak-out. No one complained about getting more of something so fine, but the time was ripe for change, and that's just what their new Syntoptikon (Important/Twisted Village) delivers. Rogers has given the mike to Sandra Barrett (of LA Drugs), Tom Leonard has switched from bass to third guitar, and the new rhythm section of Casey Keenan on drums and Dave Dougan on bass has tightened and accelerated the Stars' often lumbering grooves. Rogers's vocals were always more of a drone from which the guitarists could depart and return, but Barrett's more melodic delivery, on songs like "Collapsing," forces them to follow her into the slipstream. On "Pocket" her bluesy wail goads the combo into a wah-wah-laden, Steppenwolf-ish lurch before the three guitarists start firing off solos like earthquake aftershocks. But even that sounds genteel compared to the title track, where solos careen into each other like boulders jostling for point position in an avalanche. This is the first time the Major Stars have played here in three years and their first visit with the new lineup. Sseepage, the Scalpels, and Folk & Violence (featuring Mark Lux of Plastic Crimewave Sound) open. Tue 5/2, 9 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $8.

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