Man or Astro-man? | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Man or Astro-man?

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MAN OR ASTRO-MAN?

"It's the same series of signals over and over again!" marvels a male British voice at the opening of Man or Astro-man?'s latest album, Eeviac: Operational Index and Reference Guide, Including Other Modern Computational Devices (Touch and Go). We've all heard this line before--the baffled scientist alerting his colleagues to a mysterious radio transmission from another planet--but the sound bite also pokes fun at the relatively narrow groove traveled by this southern quartet over the years. Its melding surf punk and rickety 50s sci-fi hasn't changed all that much since its 1993 debut on Estrus, but it's good shtick, so who cares? In a curious way, those cold-war visions of the 21st century and beyond refract both the past and the future, offering a fun-house image of our technology-ridden present. On most of Eeviac, sampling and gee-whiz experimental electronics augment the band's hard drive of frantic drums, outsize Dick Dale riffs, and cavernous reverb, and the last song, "---- / Myopia," makes an epic journey into sweeping psychedelia. The Astro-men--Trace Reading, Birdstuff, Blazar the Probe Handler, and Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard--incorporate ridiculous flight suits, oversize flying-saucer gizmos, multiple TV sets, and 16-millimeter projections of grade-school astronomy films into their stellar live shows, and almost nothing can knock them out of character: last time I saw them a troublemaker in the crowd started a fight, and guitarist Dexter X (who's since left the band) threatened to send him into the future. Friday, 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. J.R. JONES

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