Monade, Zincs | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Since putting the name the ZINCS on his 2001 album Moth and Marriage, Jim Elkington has evolved from multitracker to band leader, and his steady live lineup performs on the new Dimmer (Thrill Jockey). Elkington's elegant, low-key melodies are stronger here and his doleful croon more assured--lines like "What doesn't kill me only makes my life longer" typify his darkly funny tone--but the big difference is what's going on behind him. Drummer Jason Toth and bassist Nick Macri bring heft to these gentle tunes without overwhelming them, and guitarist Nathaniel Braddock adds welcome bite to the strumming arrangements with his acidic soloing: the lead on "Stay in Your Homes" recalls Arto Lindsay's jagged skronk, and his spectral harmonics on the Velvets-y "Moment Is Now!" nicely undercut the song's loping groove.

With the recent A Few Steps More (Too Pure), Stereolab singer Laetitia Sadier has upgraded MONADE from home-recording side project (as heard on 2003's Socialisme ou Barbarie) to bona fide touring band. Monade uses plenty of core Stereolab elements: bossa nova lilt, francophone chanson lyricism, gurgling analog synthesizers. But hearing this alongside the new Stereolab box, Oscillions From the Anti-Sun, it's clear how much of Stereolab's greatness is in the flesh that her partner Tim Gane puts on those bones. Sadier's songs are lovely, but without Stereolab's swirling harmonic density and rhythmic rigor they go only so far.

Monade headlines; the Zincs play second; Danger Adventure opens. Sat 5/14, 10 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, 18+, $12 in advance, $14 at the door.

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