Shudder to Think | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Shudder to Think

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While grungy guitar bombast is currently all the rage, this D.C. quartet wallows in pop music's most unfashionable idiom: art rock. Their tunes feature the saw-toothed dissonance of artists like Captain Beefheart, Slovenly, and mid-period King Crimson. Even stranger than the music is the fact that the band has recorded three records for the Dischord label, normally a bastion of punk. The band's latest outing, Pony Express Record (Epic), contains all the guitar sizzle of ex-labelmates Fugazi and Lungfish but wanders far afield from riff-dependent song structures with jagged chord clusters and uneven tempos. While other bands get tagged as avant-garde simply because they don't know how to play in time or in tune, STT's musical unorthodoxies are deliberate and tightly orchestrated. As with many art-rock bands the singing is a love-it-or-hate-it affair, with Craig Wedren operatically warbling quasi-serial melodies. Yet STT isn't always dense and craggy. Tunes like "Earthquakes Come Home" have hooks worthy of Badfinger or the Raspberries. And "No Rm. 9, Kentucky" starts out as a light pop ballad before mutating into a welter of searing guitar. Pony Express Record even features a Led Zeppelin-esque cover of Atlanta Rhythm Section's sultry late-70s hit "So Into You." Shudder to Think convincingly makes the case that you haven't heard it all before. Thursday, December 8, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Danny Clinch.

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