Psychic Ills | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Psychic Ills

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The Psychic Ills are the first band on Social Registry to thoroughly grab hold of my ears and mind. The cover of their debut, Dins--a reproduction of Wolf Vostell's Three Hairs and Shadow--was deceptively static at first glance; a grainy print of a helicopter augmented with a few spots of color, it's attractive enough, but didn't seem to conceal anything beneath the surface. Then, just as familiarity was setting in, something snapped: now it was an image shaped by sublime mystery, oozing dread. The probable reason for this shift was that I'd just gotten the same gestalt bang from the music. The band employs the usual rock instrumentation, but their song structures aren't quite like anything else--not pop, 12-bar boogie, jazz, or Krautrock; not a round, a fugue, or a sonata. They're less like a band than the quavering presence of a band, which always sounds out of earshot even at floor-shaking volume. "I Knew My Name" is like hearing the Doors after they've made a beeline from the Strip to the studio at 3 AM, completely blown and missing Jim Morrison, but with Syd Barrett--or at least Iron Butterfly's guitarist--inexplicably in tow. The songs melt into one another like a box of Crayolas left in the sun, until I can't tell if I'm hearing dematerializing guitars or the unalloyed life force that animated them. Serena Maneesh headlines, the Psychic Ills play second, and Dirty on Purpose opens. Sat 3/11, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10.

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