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Spot Check

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HI FI & THE ROADBURNERS 12/15, THURSTON'S The cumbersome, blaring attack that Hi Fi & the Roadburners call rockabilly quickly obliterates the few subtleties the genre can claim. On Fear City (Victory), they prefer to crank it up instead of paying attention to what they're playing. ULTRAVIOLENCE 12/15, DOME ROOM Performing their new "techno-opera," Psycho Drama (Earache), Ultraviolence threaten to transform 420 beats per minute into the most preposterous and dull thing you've heard. Amid an array of functionless beats, pastoral washes of sound, and wheezing synth riffs, you hear the saga of an orphan forced into prostitution by society's cruelty; there's nothing like a tragedy to go with your techno. Our heroine escapes her mean pimp thanks to a suicidal romantic who helps her leave this stinking life. They never come back. If the world offered only music like this you'd want to join them. INSIDERS 12/15, PLAYHOUSE, 12/16, MARTYRS Chicago's great rock hope five years ago, the Insiders today can be seen in a more honest light. As the recent Fate in Action (Monsterdisc) makes plain, this quintet offers sturdy, crisp, and usually catchy pop rock. Their music remains tempered with an appealing heartland twang, and while the mainstream they courted in the 80s now seems enamored of pierced nipples and songs about blow jobs, there's no reason you shouldn't hear this band on the radio between John Hiatt and Elvis Costello. TATSU AOKI 12/17, BLUE RIDER THEATRE While best known for his quirky duets with singer Lynn Book and for organizing the recent Asian-American jazz series at the Bop Shop, bassist Tatsu Aoki has performed extensively as a solo artist. His most recent CD, Kioto (Asian Improv), features provocative duets with folks like Michael Zerang, Jim O'Rourke, and Sanjuro Tsubaki (on "Japanese saw"), but 1993's Avant-Bass Live (IEL) suggests what he'll be doing at Blue Rider. Sometimes exploiting technology to solo over looped bass lines, sometimes playing it straight, Aoki delivers a blend of experimentalism, novel effects, and hushed spirituality. SHELTER 12/17, FIRESIDE BOWL Shelter are the current band of former Youth of Today vocalist Ray Cappo, and without a doubt they are America's premier Hare Krishna hardcore band. On their recent Mantra (Roadrunner), they sound like most other chunky-riffed postpunk bands--pairing dissolute tunefulness with aggression--except when they sing a chorus like "It's the message of the Bhagavad." The band's proselytizing extends from Cappo's old straight-edge doctrine: no drugs, no booze, no meat, no violence, no, well, nothing bad. Cliched music apparently made the grade. MOONSHINE WILLY 12/18, SCHUBAS On its recent debut album, Pecadores (Bloodshot), this local, amped-up quintet reshapes the string-band tradition into a fast-moving, careening, drunken thing. With bits of rockabilly, stiff two-beat romps, and a ragged pop sensibility, Moonshine Willy seek to update country conventions, as with their original insult-hurling duet "You're the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly." While the effort is admirable, vocalist Kim Docter and her hound-dog counterpart, Mike Luke, aren't compelling singers. They have loads of energy, but they don't have matching chops. ETHER 12/21, BEAT KITCHEN It's a familiar story: local band forms, makes thoroughly ordinary record, tries to get a little press. Band succeeds on the last count and wonders if all the effort was worth it.

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