Thalia Zedek | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Live Skull and Come were two of the most intense guitar bands of the indie-rock era, but it was the way Thalia Zedek's anguished wail fought the din that made both bands stick for me--then as now, few vocalists could convey emotional turbulence with such economy and power. After Zedek and guitarist Chris Brokaw split with Come's rhythm section in the late 90s, the band such as it was experimented with "cabaret" tours, and for the first time Zedek had the opportunity to sink into her songs instead of straining to get out in front of them. The experience warmed her up to the idea of performing solo, and when Come went on permanent hiatus in 1999, she began doing just that. In her earliest performances she stuck to covers, but eventually she began writing new material, which makes up much of the new Been Here and Gone (Matador), a gorgeous outing that proves how richly expressive her mahogany moan can be at lower volumes. I don't mean to imply that it's not a rock record--it very much is, and it features contributions from Brokaw, Come's last drummer, Daniel Coughlin, and bittersweet piano and violin parts by Mel Lederman and David Michael Curry--but it's more spacious and patient than any Come album. Zedek's pained melodies rhapsodize the exquisite agony of failed relationships in a brutal cycle of outwardly directed criticism and self-flagellation: on "Treacherous Thing" she sings, "You are going to hell / You're gonna be living with yourself," but a pretty cover of "1926," by the obscure early-80s Boston band V, finds her crying, "Your god hates me." Saturday, October 13, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Laura Z. Caplan.

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