ANDREW BIRD'S BOWL OF FIRE 9/11, OLD TOWN SCHOOL Without question this Chicago band and its brother combo, Kevin O'Donnell's Quality Six, are top-tier revivalists, so devoted to detail that when they snore it probably sounds like the crackle of a well-loved 78. But their boyish look-ma-no-hands cleverness is starting to get on my nerves. This gig is a release party for the Bowl of Fire's second CD on Rykodisc, Oh! The Grandeur!, an impressive display of self-conscious overbusyness right down to the fussy Chris Ware packaging. Enthusiasm and showmanship can be refreshing in small doses, but sometimes, to paraphrase Frank Zappa, you just have to shut up 'n play yer fiddle. LOST GOAT 9/11, FIRESIDE BOWL Legions of bands inspired by Black Sabbath point to the sheer dumb weight of that sound, but upon reimmersing myself in the first six Sabbath albums not too long ago, I was struck all over again by how much more there was to it: the charmingly clunky tempo changes, the arbitrary bridges, the bizarre drum breaks all over the place. On their enjoyable seven-song sophomore CD, Equator (Man's Ruin), the two gals and one guy of Lost Goat make Ozzy and company sound like King Crimson--this is math rock for people who've lost count of how many shots they've had. PRETTY THINGS 9/12, HOUSE OF BLUES As reissuers and zine editors have recently learned, these guys were the real deal, and certainly a redistribution of the veneration shown for some of their contemporaries--specifically the Who and the Stones--is in order. A reunion, though, is a trickier proposition. Earlier this year the Pretty Things made a brand-new record, ...Rage Before Beauty (Snapper), which in addition to 11 originals includes covers of "Mony Mony" (with guest vocals by Ronnie Spector), "Eve of Destruction," and the Stones' "Play With Fire." The most surprising thing about this record is how good it is. Not only are most of the originals classically catchy--occasionally ripping off the Stones but never resorting to the instantly dated gimmicks those old farts have incorporated over the years--but "Mony Mony," presumed dead after a thrashing by Billy Idol in '87, sounds positively life-affirming. Another nail in the coffin of youth fetishism, Rage beats Bridges to Babylon by ten country miles. EYESORES 9/13, FIRESIDE bowl I've got a soft spot for woozy mangled folk music that wholeheartedly embraces heartbreak as a natural state of being. On the EP May You Dine on Weeds Made Bitter by the Piss of Drunkards (Magic Eye), this Providence sextet (whose arsenal includes violin, lap steel, upright bass, and accordion) sometimes lapses into mere rock, but more often sounds like an eastern European wedding band that learned to play from worn-out, smuggled-in Tom Waits tapes. TWELFTH HOUSE 9/15, MORSELAND; 9/16, ROBY'S This local band has an interesting back story--bassist and arranger Michael Pleska was censored as a member of an underground rock band in communist Czechoslovakia, fled the country, and troubadored his way across Europe before coming to Chicago--but I wish some of that tension translated to the trio's pleasant but bland folk rock. STEVE EARLE 9/16, METRO The most striking thing about the sound track to Dead Man Walking--actually a collection of "music from and inspired by" the 1996 movie--was that it contained some of the best odd spurts of work the artists involved had done in a long time. Contributions by Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, and Tom Waits were all spine chillers, and Steve Earle's "Ellis Unit One" was one of those moments every singer-songwriter strives for: he stopped the record dead in its tracks, plunging the helpless listener into the vividly detailed nightmare of a prison guard working in an execution chamber. It wasn't Earle's conviction that made the song so effective--it was the narrator's lack of it. His performance here is a benefit for the Illinois Moratorium Project, part of Sister Helen Prejean's Moratorium 2000, a national movement that supports a "cease-fire" while our leaders rethink the death penalty. Also on the bill are the Waco Brothers and Anna Fermin's Trigger Gospel. --Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Eyesores uncredited photo.