Cock E.S.P. 5/9, Fireside Bowl There are folks spending a lot of money to convince us that the logical endpoint of indie rock is a market glut of plodding, vaguely tormented riff rockers. But in small dumpy rooms everywhere, the idiom is getting a real Viking funeral from noise artists, many taking their cues from the Japanese masters, chewing up the music and joyfully spitting back the debris. Minneapolis's Cock E.S.P., which is usually Emil Hagstrom and Matt St. Germain, crams smutty, snotty manifestos into nasty, brutish, short sets; having witnessed their aborted invasion of the stage at an Empty Bottle noise fest last year, I recommend safety goggles, earplugs, and punctuality.
Los Crudos 5/9, University of Chicago, Ida Noyes Hall Pilsen's Los Crudos have probably been Chicago's best hardcore band for a good five years now--an intense, high-energy outfit that never stoops to games of more-oppressed-than-thou. The fact that their lyrics are in Spanish is a delight to a good number of their fans and no barrier to appreciation by the rest: English translations are provided on the lyric sheets, and besides, anyone who claims they can figure out hardcore lyrics in any language just by listening is lying. Hardcore is as hardcore does, and Los Crudos are donating their energies here to benefit the legal fund for organizer Fred Hampton Jr., the son of slain Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who's doing 18 years on a questionable charge of "racially motivated" arson. My Lai opens and the Make-Up headlines.
FAIRMOUNT GIRLS 5/10, BEAT KITCHEN Every Sunday afternoon from now till the end of the month, Chicago folk-rock vets 40K will put on a show at Beat Kitchen featuring music, dance, film, and visual art. The series kicks off with the local debut of the Fairmount Girls, a new combo from Cincinnati featuring Marnie Greenholz and members of Ditchweed. In the good old days Greenholz played bass and sang in Live Skull, the 80s New York sludgecore band that gave us Come front woman Thalia Zedek and Chavez percussion engine James Lo. The Girls' five-song demo, a boiling mass of spiky guitar and spooky Farfisa, is a little broader and gentler--possibly from being stretched out over the rolling hills of southern Ohio instead of channeled through the concrete canyons of Manhattan. But the music hasn't picked up enough midwestern corn yet to make it truly turgid.
GARY NUMAN, SWITCHBLADE SYMPHONY 5/11, METRO Switchblade Symphony, a two-woman, two-man outfit from San Francisco, play their goth high and elegant, with Tina Root's voice alternately husky and winsome over the usual minor-key synthesizer swoops and light programmed beats. I'm not surprised to learn they contributed to a Siouxsie & the Banshees tribute album back in '96--none of the tracks on either of their LPs (both on Cleopatra) would have sounded terribly out of place there. They remind me of nothing so much as the Siouxsie and Budgie side project the Creatures. Headlining is none other than original digital man Gary Numan on his first U.S. tour since 1982. His comeback bid on Cleopatra, Exile, is a musically uneventful dark-wave concept album about Lucifer's expulsion from heaven. Age apparently hasn't tempered the arch fear and loathing that's inspired wave after wave of synth-wielding futuroids to lock horns with scraggly guitar rockers. But the future just ain't what it used to be. DJ Scary Lady Sarah, a longtime favorite of the moon-tan crowd, sets the opening mood.
FUEL 5/12, METRO Why do these nice Pennsylvania boys look so grim on the back of their Sony 550 debut, Sunburn? Perhaps they're staring down all those industry weasels who insist on calling what they do "alternative" when they just want to call it "rock." How brave they must be, what a powerful, ballsy band they must be, standing firm in the face of the Man, who wants to package them, label them, restrain their youthful passion for Alice in Chains, and call what they do "shinola" when we all know it's shit.
PEE SHY 5/12, LOUNGE AX Pee Shy began as a duo in Tampa, signed to Mercury, put out a quirky, quavery pop record that nobody bought, moved to New York, picked up a traditional rhythm section, recorded in Nashville with the guy who did Jill Sobule's record, and you probably know the rest. Singer-lyricist Cindy Wheeler stubbornly hangs on to her idiosyncrasies--writing love songs to Jad Fair and whatnot--and the band brandishes accordions and Moogs as if to say, "See, see, we're still unusual." Sadly, they are not.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Gary Numan photo/ uncredited.