PEOPLE OF THE NORTH 2/7, EMPTY BOTTLE With last year's Each One Teach One (Jagjaguwar), psychedelic freewheelers Oneida convinced some of us that this whole rock mess still had a little life left in it after all. Since bassist Baby Jane "can't get the entire three weeks off" for a west-coast tour, drummer Kid Millions and keyboardist Fat Bobby are going it alone from Brooklyn to Idaho as People of the North. They plan to mix new originals with covers that pay tribute to great duos of the past--Silver Apples and Suicide are the specific names they drop. We Regazzi headlines and Check Engine opens. IKE REILLY 2/7, SCHUBAS There's nothing the music press loves more than a working-class hero who comes out of nowhere to wow the world. But the raves that Ike Reilly of Libertyville got for his 2001 debut, Salesmen and Racists (Universal), were well deserved. On that album, and again on last year's follow-up EP, Cars & Girls & Drinks & Songs, Reilly writes and sings with a cocksureness that suggests he's got an endless supply of genius throwaways like "I'll be judged on garbage day" scribbled down on napkins back at the ranch. He's vicious but infectious, as cheery and catchy as Buddy Holly and as cynical and catchy as Randy Newman. Best of all, he's got no time for the sincerity game so many singer-songwriters play--as he says on his Web site, "There's a lot of dishonesty in my songs. It's not like I'm lying, but I'd be a fool to open myself up." SLUMBER PARTY 2/7, ABBEY PUB The Slumber Party's girly name isn't entirely apt: there's nothing about this Detroit-based female foursome that suggests giggling, pillow fights, or putting some unfortunate sleeper's hand in warm water. But there is a drowsy quality to the Velvets-y bittersweetness of the band's two Kill Rock Stars albums: this is the sound of lying down alone, whether under the stars or on your apartment floor, gazing out at the city lights--and loving it. These women sound like they want Kendra Smith to be their Joey Ramone, and melodically they outclass scads of more lauded boys--like the guys Luna, who headline. SECRETLY CANADIAN SHOWCASE 2/8, EMPTY BOTTLE Secretly Canadian, based in Bloomington, doesn't seem to aspire to a unified aesthetic. Content to encourage the idiosyncrasies of its diverse stable, the label gains in range what it lacks in a recognizable sound. Though Songs: Ohia, with its stark beauty, may be the chief draw here, I expect the breakout performances to come from two very different artists heard less often in Chicago: the bold noise/metal/experimental rock act Racebannon, whose Satan's Kickin' Your Dick In is an exhilarating genderfuck concept album about a guy who sells his soul to the devil to become a woman, and strange, fetching Englishwoman Scout Niblett, who plays all the instruments on her second album, I Conjure Series, an evocative art-song shadow play. Swearing at Motorists and Impossible Shapes round out the bill. 12 RODS 2/8, DOUBLE DOOR This Minneapolis quartet has some harsh words for its former label, V2, and its former producer, Todd Rundgren. But being punted out of the major-label arena may prove the best thing to ever happen to these guys. A few years back they were one of umpteen new modern rock bands, marketed to press and radio as everything from an 80s nostalgia neo-new wave act to a generic power pop unit shifter like, oh, Lit or somebody. Now they've released their own album, Lost Time; it's got a bubbly stoned-geeks-from-the-north charm and suggests their common denominators are far from the lowest. And they don't need Rundgren to teach them how to use their studio gadgets. BANGS 2/9, FIRESIDE BOWL The Bangs hail from Olympia--that damp scenester paradise where grrrl power still reigns and the personal remains the political, where rock 'n' roll values really did get remade for a generation that still clings to its ideals with a faith both endearing and enduring. But little more than fashion sense and ideological bent separates the educated roar of this trio's recent EP Call and Response from the early Donnas. I always knew the white-collar daughters who grew dreads in artsy colleges and their blue-collar sisters--with their raccoon eyeliner, cigarette habits dating from junior high, and metal records--had more in common than either camp would like to admit. TIM EASTON 2/13, ABBEY PUB Break Your Mother's Heart (New West), the latest from Ohio-bred Angeleno Tim Easton, gets off to a promising start with "Poor, Poor LA," a catchy slice of street life hooked to an Eldridge Cleaver quote--pretty audacious for such a lily-white fella. The rest of the album is quietly brooding and California slick, complete with cameo from the guitarist Mike Campbell from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers. Sure, Easton sounds younger and hipper than James Taylor ever did, but he wields his unshowy songcraft with the same desperate degree of professionalism.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jonathan Cargill.