Scrawl | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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A band that starts rerecording its own material is often just hoping to conceal creative bankruptcy. But when Scrawl, a rock trio from Columbus, Ohio, split its 1998 Nature Film (Elektra) pretty much fifty-fifty between new and old songs, it was fighting a more literal sort of bankruptcy: the labels that had issued five of the band's first six records had all run out of money, patience, or luck, and rerecording was the only way Scrawl could get the vintage tunes back into circulation. Not every remake stands up to the original--the sparse "Standing Around," for instance, has been spoiled by the addition of an incongruously festive organ riff--but the performances are every bit as committed. The new songs, like "You Make It a Crime" and "100 Car Pile-Up," prove that the band hasn't lost its gift for wedding terse lyrics about adversarial relationships to lacerating, economical hooks. But six weeks after Nature Film came out Elektra, too, dropped Scrawl; then singer and guitarist Marcy Mays broke her collarbone in a bike accident and the band had to cancel a summer tour. In spite of all their rotten luck, though, when Scrawl played Lounge Ax in December they seemed anything but defeated. Mays, bassist-vocalist Sue Harshe, and drummer Dana Marshall kicked as hard as ever, even digging out some of their earliest songs--stuff they used to play at college parties in the mid-80s. I've seen the band probably half a dozen times since 1990, and I'm looking forward to more of that exuberance this weekend. Saturday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 773-525-6620. BILL MEYER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Michael McLaughlin.

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