Ono, Hums & Haws, Toupee, Richard Album | Empty Bottle | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Ono, Hums & Haws, Toupee, Richard Album Free Soundboard Recommended Image

When: Mon., July 6, 9 p.m. 2015

The hammering, dissonant, seesawing noise rock of Chicago four-piece Toupee isn’t too hard to get a handle on, not in and of itself—but when you take into account the unruly throng of voices swarming inside front woman Whitney Allen, this beast becomes sui generis. Allen howls, shrieks, mutters, coos, chatters, rants, growls, croons, barks, babbles, hisses, cackles, and ululates; her melodies might sound like a Village of the Damned playground chant or a shieldmaiden’s battle cry. She can flicker from anesthetized to furious, from desperately grief-stricken to terrifyingly feral, in the two halves of a single measure. On Toupee’s second full-length, Leg Toucher (due July 7 on local label Moniker), the band seems to have realized how extraordinary Allen’s performances are: the new album foregrounds her vocals in the mix more clearly than 2013’s Dinner Parties. And the rest of the music, while not quite so spectacularly unhinged, likewise skips through several different feels, including the regimented lope of “Gramma in the Slamma” and the odd-metered creepy-basement tiptoe of “Constrictor.” The ringing, mournful arpeggiated guitars on “Sensei, Swami, Guru” sound like the Cure, while the frenetic hi-hat groove of “Glitter Roach” recalls disco-inflected postpunk. Toupee is a good argument for the existence of an underground rock scene: it’s tough to imagine a young band doubling down on such a strange aesthetic while playing only in clubs that worry about money. —Philip Montoro