From their not-all-that-humble origins as a southern-fried garage rockabilly unit, Atlanta's Rock*a*Teens have evolved into an institution, with a burgeoning discography and at least one mildly famous alumnus--the very Kelly Hogan Chicago now claims as its own. But they've yet to put out the same record twice. On their fifth album, Sweet Bird of Youth (Merge), the scruffy Cabbagetown rockers go into the studio and get arty. That gorgeous classic reverb isn't gone, not by a long shot--rather, it's brought down all its cousins from the effects shelf to gang up on an array of keyboard sounds, from trashy soul organ to distorted harpsichord. The overall sound of the record is a big loose thing, hung on the tottering wooden frame of Chris Lopez's passionate songs, which infect the mundane and the idle fantasy with a secular sense of apocalypse ("Strike down the band with yer swords of gold / Strike down the band they've gotten old," he sings in "Pretty Thoughts Strike Down the Band"). The Rock*a*Teens' current worldview may sound like something out of the Elephant 6 bag of tricks at times, but their weirdness is nowhere near that precious. Saturday, December 2, 9 PM, the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; 773-227-4433. You can also catch them opening for Man or Astro-Man? on Friday, December 15, at 9 PM at Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Chris Verene.