Spot Check | Spot Check | Chicago Reader

Music » Spot Check

Spot Check

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

OMINOUS SEAPODS 7/18, SCHUBAS I'm not impressed by this east-coast nouveau jam band's claim to a national grassroots following--thousands of orphaned Jerry fans can indeed be wrong. But I am somewhat wowed by the tightness and efficiency on its live album, Matinee Idols (Hydrophonics). There are actual songs here, long though they may be, and it sounds like the players are actually listening to each other. I know it seems a small thing to ask, but I've really come to appreciate it.

ARLO LEACH 7/20, KOPI CAFE This Madison singer-songwriter displays a healthy, self-deprecating sense of humor in his lyrics and promo materials. But while his CD Show Biz (a concept album about...you guessed it, you clever monkey you!) has some moving moments--like "Icarus," a merry marimba-and-harmonica-fueled tune about ambition and pettiness--Ray Davies he ain't. His pleasant voice and skill with a hook are promising, but Leach isn't quite ready for his close-up.

PETER BRÖTZMANN 7/21 & 22, EMPTY BOTTLE Last year German reed legend Peter "Machine Gun" Brötzmann made several extended visits to Chicago, not only to perform but also to record with a gaggle of mostly local hotshots; the result is The Chicago Octet/Tentet, an imposing three-CD set just released in a limited edition by Okka Disk. It documents live sets as well as studio recordings with Mars Williams, Ken Vandermark, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Jeb Bishop, Kent Kessler, Michael Zerang, Hamid Drake, and occasionally New York's Joe McPhee and the Swede Mats Gustafsson. An exhausting and rewarding journey, it intricately contrasts the mad energy Brötzmann's known for with the subtlety he's not. For these gigs the formidable Teuton retreats to a bare-bones trio with Kessler and Drake. r. . . AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD 7/22, LOUNGE AX This Austin rock quartet has coughed up a juicy debut album (on Trance Syndicate) that fluctuates unpredictably from jet-contrail noise smear ("An Ounce of Prevention" is particularly outstanding in the early-Sonic Youth-or-Memorex category) to menacing near silence, with enough sheer throbbing choogle in between to keep the momentum healthy. Reports from previous AYWKUBTTOD live shows promise both intense focus and lively shtick--front men Jason Reece and Conrad Keely flail and heckle, guitarists bang the drums and drummers bang the guitars, and at least one convert has informed me that a better band name might have been . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Broken Equipment.

FRAGILE PORCELAIN MICE 7/23, LOUNGE AX As you might have guessed the name's ironic. As tchotchkes go, these downstate boys more resemble one of those very complex, soon-to-be-obsolete movie-tie-in toys that does everything but make the popcorn. The fierce slap-bass and crunch-guitar tunes on their second album, Frostbidding (Artdamage), punch out the bad robots and explode just like they're supposed to, but the Mice haven't quite grasped that explosions are more exciting when they sneak up on you. And Scott C. Randall's monotonous go-to-your-room bellow is about as expressive as the badly painted face of the Luke Skywalker action figure I beheaded as a squirt.

LOU MALLOZZI 7/23, XOINX TEA ROOM At least since Hugo Ball first attempted to create "verse without words" there has been a yearning in poetry to liberate language from the limits of empirical meaning--to use the spoken word and human voice as sounds that can be manipulated to stir response in a nonliteral fashion, as music does. In this tradition--or more specifically in the similar tradition John Cage initiated from the music side--Chicago-based sound artist Lou Mallozzi uses text, stories, and voice to complex but lucid effect on his CD Radiophagy. Here he'll be performing excerpts from his long work Usi Scrutati ("Scrutinized Uses"), described as "dialogue[s] between live and recorded experiences" using low-tech objects like a cassette player, a flashlight, and a teletype key as well as voice and physical gestures. He'll also be joined in duets by guitarist John Corbett, violinist Terri Kapsalis, and "language artist" Mark Booth.

RADIO KINGS 7/23, house of blues restaurant Ex-Blaster Dave Alvin's beautifully written recommendation in the liner notes to this Boston roots-blues trio's new Money Road (Bullseye) is reason enough to give it a chance--and even in its least inspired moments, the album continues to inspire generosity. While it's mostly true, as Alvin says, that "they're learning the hardest part, how to sound like themselves," Brian Templeton's harmonica wizardry is there already, and it bodes well that two of the album's strongest songs--the eerie "Virginia" and the desolate blues "The Shelf"--are originals.

--Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo of Lou Mallozzi by Dawn Mallozzi.

Add a comment