Ssion | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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A certain kind of shook-up-soda-can energy comes from being picked on, so if Ssion weren't from rural Kentucky--or some other place where they weren't allowed to be themselves--I doubt they'd be as explosively irreverent. But growing up punk, gay, and misunderstood has worked out well for front man Cody Critcheloe: his collagey paintings and animated videos have made him a hotshot in hipster art circles, landing him illustration work for NME and Peaches and the position of chief visual-arts consultant for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Live Ssion performances are structured around Critcheloe's videos; as he shimmies and slinks like a diva from hell, making obscure references to his penchants for snakes and fast food, three overly made-up fag hags squeal and writhe and a skinny, self-conscious nerd heshes out on guitar. The songs on the forthcoming Opportunity Bless My Soul (Version City) are so jam-packed--with keyboard twinkles, raver whistles, car-rattling bass, powwow yodeling, rearing guitar, accidental feedback, and lots of full-on yelling, all at once--your speakers will hate you. For spazzes, they've got amazing range: they go from gauzy Xanadu to oozy Rocky Horror Picture Show to desperate Joy Division with such sass it makes my tummy hurt. And Critcheloe's insights into the art world and music biz are so biting it's amazing he's been picked up by the scruff instead of kicked to the curb. In "What Makes a Man Start a Band?" he compares trying to make it to repeatedly getting "the shit kicked out of me," and in "Opportunity Bless My Soul" he prays for connections, not talent. Lucky shit--he's got both. Thursday, June 12, 9 PM, Subterranean Cafe & Cabaret, 2011 W. North; 773-278-6600.

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