Mecca Normal | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Mecca Normal


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Though it's punk in the best sense of the word, Mecca Normal has never quite stood up to the "loud fast rules" test--at least not the "rules" part. Formed in 1986, the Vancouver duo irritated hardcore fundamentalists by gigging without a rhythm section, but no one in his right mind could have claimed that rhythm was lacking: with his pulverizing, unerringly metrical electric guitar, David Lester erected walls, across which Jean Smith sprayed explicitly feminist and anarchist rage in a sinuous, nasal voice. By 1992, when the two recorded the brilliant Dovetail (K), both the content and the form had grown even harder to pin down: Smith's lyrics were abstract and complex, and her empathy with Lester had evolved to a point where voice and guitar intertwined, blurring the lines between lead and supporting roles. Since then they've broadened their sound using outside players, and on last year's The Eagle & the Poodle (Matador) they finally brought in a drummer, the equally idiosyncratic New Zealander Peter Jefferies. The trio's live performances were uneven--though Jefferies's tub-thumping underscored Lester's ferocious rhythms, it could also subtly inhibit Mecca Normal's intuitive chemistry. So while drummer Charlie Quintana adds texture to the group's most recent record, Who Shot Elvis? (produced by Jefferies), for this tour Mecca Normal is once again a duo. But don't mistake the lineup for a step backward: Lester will approximate the new album's quieter sound by playing acoustic guitar, while Smith will step out with the wild electric lead-guitar style she's honed in 2 Foot Flame, her trio with Jefferies and the Dead C's Michael Morley. Wednesday, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 773-525-6620. Bill Meyer

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

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