Red Red Meat's evolution from bombastic, overwrought noise merchants (a sound carried over from their previous incarnation, Friends of Betty) to hazed but focused blues-touched rockers is a classic story of a band finding their niche by falling into it. On their 1990 debut single, "Hot Nikketty Trunk Monkey," grimy, craggy guitar churned over a faint melody, but buried on the flip were "Molly's on the Rag," a frantic shuffle with a reckless slide-guitar frenzy, and the Rolling Stones-ish swagger of "X-Diamond Cutter Blues," both foreshadowing the band's nascent bluesy streak. By 1993 they'd started playing out more than three times a year, and that same year they cleaned house with an eponymous, self-released debut CD, which featured all of their recordings with bassist Glynis Johnson, who died in 1992 from AIDS. Their just-released Sub Pop debut, Jimmywine Majestic, is the rewarding fruition of all the groping and experimenting. When writers say this album invokes Exile on Main Street they're not just regurgitating flack dope or glomming onto the deluded postulations of self-absorbed artists; they're speaking the truth. The raunchy, gyrating guitars of Tim Rutili and Glenn Girard speak volumes about dynamics, slithering over the cocky, loose grooves of bassist Tim Hurley and drummer Brian Deck with arresting swaths of adept interplay. Rutili's voice has finally shed its previous mumbled shyness in favor of moderate articulation: his lyrics remain impossibly recondite, but his tunefulness lacks neither clarity nor emotional content. The songwriting ranges from flat-out rockers ("Flank," "Lather") to gutbuckety blues muck ("Smokey Mountain Dbl Dip") to stoned ballads ("Brain Dead"). Truth is, Red Red Meat were worth seeing well before the simultaneous lionization of Urge Overkill, Smashing Pumpkins, and Liz Phair, and while the resulting focus on Chicago has been a primary reason they've finally gotten their just deserts, saddling a band this good with tags like "next big thing" or "second wave" is a serious affront. Glenn Girard's also the drummer for Boy King, which opens. Friday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620. Saturday, 3 PM, Reckless Records, 3157 N. Broadway; 404-5080.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marty Perez.