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Red Krayola

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It's tough to know where to begin with the Red Krayola. Since the combo was first heard from--on 1967's Parable of Arable Land, a highly literate excursion through wiggy psychedelia--its mainstay has been Mayo Thompson, a man with a restless artistic spirit and a scathing sense of humor. Thompson has led the group on numerous stylistic excursions; suffice it to say that their various strains of dadaist art rock remain singular and influential--most notably on Pere Ubu, whom Thompson joined briefly during the early 80s. Lyrically the Red Krayola have consistently offered biting social and political criticism as well as daring conceptual feats. 1981's Kangaroo?, for example, examines Soviet communism. In 1977 Thompson left America for England, where he ended up working for Rough Trade Records, producing for groundbreaking artists like the Raincoats, James "Blood" Ulmer, the Fall, and Cabaret Voltaire. The Red Krayola continued intermittently, releasing their last album, Malefactor, ade, in 1989. In recent years Thompson has lived in Germany, working as an art critic among other pursuits, but since hooking up this year with Chicago's Drag City label he's had a spate of renewed musical activity. A few months back Drag City reissued Thompson's classic 1970 solo album, Corky's Debt to His Father, and just out is a new, self-titled album by the Red Krayola, which includes contributions from David Grubbs, John McEntire, and Jim O'Rourke--all three of Gastr del Sol--and Tom Watson of San Francisco's Slovenly. It's the band's most blatant "rock" outing, but among the barbed guitar riffs, weird synth gurgles, and solid rhythmic underpinnings is Thompson's usual caustic humor, this time ripping apart the sacred cows of rock and pop. The album's rife with parodic wordplay. "How many stairs must a man walk down / Before he can be called a man" goes a line from "Rapspierre," and the recent single "14" distills pop music down to its essence: "Shit la la means I love you." This, their first-ever Chicago appearance, is only their seventh U.S. concert in 27 years. Tuesday, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

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