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The List: April 14-20

Music Critics' Choices and other notable shows, including: Amon Amarth, Megaton Leviathan, Front 242, Mike Watt + the Missingmen, Ralph Stanley, Parts & Labor, and more

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Thursday14

>Critic's Choice< Amon Amarth

>Critic's Choice< Megaton Leviathan

Peelander-Z

Charlie Parr

Anni Rossi, Rollin Hunt

Friday15

>Critic's Choice< Front 242

>Critic's Choice< Mike Watt + the Missingmen

Saturday16

Rollin Hunt

>Critic's Choice< Ralph Stanley

Luc Van Acker, Paul Barker, and Chris Connelly

Sunday17

>Critic's Choice< Front 242; Luc Van Acker, Paul Barker, and Chris Connelly

Wednesday20

>Critic's Choice< The Bach Project

Crocodiles

>Critic's Choice< Parts & Labor

thursday14

Amon Amarth - STEVE BROWN
  • Steve Brown
  • Amon Amarth

AMON AMARTH After years of confusion about their genre identity, Swedish melodeath veterans Amon Amarth have finally claimed the "Viking metal" label—or at least let somebody else put it in their website's Google description. Don't worry, guys, coming out is a long and complicated process for a lot of people. But once you've gotten to the point of selling a deluxe limited edition of your new album that comes with an action figure of Surtr—leader of the fire giants, also known as "the Black One," in Norse mythology—your orientation is no secret to anyone but you. It's really all right; you're blond burly guys from the land of ice and snow, so you've always tripped our Freyr-dar. The album in question, Surtur Rising (Metal Blade), slices through labels with confident ease, honing Amon Amarth's particular formula—riffs plus speed plus militancy, topped with enough cheese to repel metal dilettantes—into a very efficient vehicle for the delivery of adrenaline. "War of the Gods" is the declaration of hostilities, and the rest of the album is epic and melancholy mayhem—front man Johan Hegg occasionally sounds like he's actually terrified of dying in battle, but most of the rest of the time he's going berserk. It's not a great leap forward for the band, but it hardly needs to be. They'll play two different sets tonight. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $25, 17+. —Monica Kendrick

MEGATON LEVIATHAN Oregon trio Megaton Leviathan, which includes former Wolves in the Throne Room bassist Chris Beug, plays the type of doom metal that, as I wrote last week, Indian doesn't—the almost relaxing kind favored by heavy-lidded stoners. In this case it'd help if said heavy-lidded stoners have also had positive experiences with Autechre, My Bloody Valentine, and Mogwai. Perhaps even the Cocteau Twins. Last year's Water Wealth Hell on Earth (Feretro), which reprises a couple songs from their self-released 2009 demo, fairly seamlessly blends darkwave, drone, and doom—it's perpetually unsettling, and heavy as fuck when it asserts itself. Ghostly vocals and highly processed synths and strings add to the mesmerizing atmosphere, and the first time I heard the heavy riff come in on "Guns and LSD," I admit it, I jumped. These guys are threatening to make the cultish solemnity of, say, Om or Sunn 0))) friendly to the masses—"hooky drones" aren't something you hear every day. Locals Black September, recently signed to Prosthetic, headline; Megaton Leviathan and Go Hang open.  9 PM, Memories, 4358 N. Cicero, 773-286-8640, $7. —Monica Kendrick

PEELANDER-Z You won't get a feel for NYC-based Japanese punk trio Peelander-Z just by listening to last year's P-TV-Z (Chicken Ranch). It's straightforward, fairly unremarkable three-chord rawk, a little like the Ramones if the Ramones had formed after absorbing two decades of punk and hardcore—and if they'd written songs about ninja high school and fighting cavities. The simple sugar-high tunes, almost bratty in their shout-along exuberance, can feel gimmicky on record, but they come alive when Peelander-Z take the stage. Dressed in the bright costumes of superheroes or backyard wrestlers—one color per, as in "Peelander Yellow"—they bounce and holler and just generally freak out, directing all manner of audience-participation foolishness with the help of big hand-lettered signs. They might battle a guitar-squid monster or lead a limbo dance, and sometimes they even let people from the crowd play their instruments while they put on a skit. During the tune "So Many Mike" the Peelanders try to get everyone in the room named Mike to come onstage, and in their games of "human bowling," the aforementioned squid and any sufficiently bold audience members (often given a bowling-pin outfit) throw themselves at a spread of real pins with boardwalk-carnival flair. The music can feel subservient to the zaniness, but its enthusiasm and energy are what give the whole jamboree its infectious charge of joyful brainlessness. Anamanaguchi, Velva, and Kkrusty open.  7 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, 2109 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance, 17+. —Leor Galil

CHARLIE PARR Monopoly is legal again, and a brave state's attorney has advocated gunning down labor-rights demonstrators in the streets; it's starting to look a lot like the 19th century around here. The way Minnesota bluesman Charlie Parr channels the past on his latest solo album, When the Devil Goes Blind (Nero's Neptune), lends sharp teeth to the argument that things back then weren't so different from today. In the song "1890," soldiers shoot kids at Wounded Knee; on "For the Drunkard's Mother," Parr imagines a haunted, alcoholic veteran freezing to death under a bridge alone. Judging from When the Devil Goes Blind, our comforts haven't changed much over the past 120 years—you're either on the sauce or leaning on a vengeful God. But on EastMont Syrup, Parr's latest collaboration with Appalachian old-time combo the Black Twig Pickers (it's one side of a split LP with guitarist Glenn Jones that Thrill Jockey is releasing this weekend for Record Store Day), he offers a third comfort: dancing the night away to his jaunty banjo and shimmering resonator guitar. Parr will perform solo tonight. Australian/American newgrass quartet the Greencards headline; Parr and Texan fiddler Amanda Shires open. 8 PM, Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse, 773-381-4554 or 866-468-3401, $15. —Bill Meyer

ANNI ROSSI, ROLLIN HUNT Singer and violist ANNI ROSSI impressed me on her first two releases—2008's Afton EP and 2009's Rockwell, both on 4AD—by demonstrating melodic savvy and resourcefulness with a nonstandard pop instrument (a la Andrew Bird). On her latest, Heavy Meadow (3 Syllables), her songs are as catchy as ever, her quirky singing is still instantly identifiable, and she's still playing her viola like a strummed guitar. Unfortunately synthesizers and programmed beats dominate the arrangements, creating a thin, treacly sound that's especially disappointing after the promise she showed on earlier efforts. One year after moving to New York, she's returning to town for a night to perform with bassist Ryan Maxwell and drummer Devin Maxwell, both of whom appear on the new record. She's leaving the keyboards at home, which should make these new songs sound much better. —Peter Margasak

Moniker Records founder Robert Manis is a connoisseur of Chicago's solitary musical weirdos. Having released a record by unhinged folk primitivist John Bellows last year, Manis is now pushing the more subdued—but no less strange—ROLLIN HUNT. On the A side of his recent debut seven-inch, "Criminal," he only needs three minutes to do off-kilter things to several oldies radio tropes; his warped readings of doo-wop and rockabilly come off like something that Jim Steinman (you know, the guy who wrote songs for Meat Loaf) might have dreamed up if he'd been a basement recluse with a four-track, a cheap flanger, and an undiagnosed serotonin imbalance. On the B side, "Castle of Nothing" combines a menacing mood and noisy, druggy electro-pop. Hunt's official debut album, The Phoney, drops this summer; presumably it's just as off the rails. —Miles Raymer

Rossi headlines; Daniel Knox and Rollin Hunt open. Hunt also plays Roxaboxen Exhibitions Sat 4/16. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 877-435-9849, $8.

friday15

FRONT 242 The 33 and 1/3rd anniversary of local label and cultural institution Wax Trax! is bringing several eminences from industrial music's heyday out of the woodwork. If you had to pick a single act to embody the whole industrial thing, Front 242 would be a fine choice. Their "electronic body music" represents the point at which drum machines and keyboards left glittery clubland and got into some serial-killer shit, transforming the thump of disco's 4/4 beat into something more felonious and replacing its hedonism with an unsettling cold-eyed stare. On top of that, they're just ridiculously Belgian; they've got severely slicked-down hairdos, a fashion sense defined by black turtlenecks, and push a fucked-up, art-damaged video aesthetic that the SNL skit "Sprockets" actually toned down a little. No wonder they're worshiped by everyone from Trent Reznor to that IT guy at work who still wears platform biker boots even though he's pushing 40—come on, those things are ridiculous. Front 242 headlines nights one and three of the three-day Wax Trax! Records Retrospectacle; see also Sunday. Rights of the Accused play first, followed by En Esch, Guenter Schulz, Raymond Watts, and Mona Mur performing the music of KMFDM. Tonight's DJs are Tom Pazen, Dave Roberts, Gary Jacobson, Sean Joyce, and Heather Robinson.  8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, sold out, 18+. —Miles Raymer

MIKE WATT + THE MISSINGMEN "Thirty pieces of broken-up mirror / Stuffed in the head / Spilled out here," Mike Watt growls on "Arrow-Pierced-Egg-Man," the opening tune from the scrappy new Hyphenated-Man (on his own Clenched Wrench label). The terse lyrics of the album's 30 songs recast figures from Hieronymus Bosch paintings as different facets of Watt's personality, but despite that conceit it's less grandiose and unified than the former Minutemen bassist's two previous "operas." Watt's Missingmen are a trio—he's joined by drummer Raul Morales and guitarist Tom Watson, a longtime cohort who played in Slovenly and the Red Krayola—and that format, combined with the two-minutes-or-less concision of the new album's songs, can't help but remind a Minutemen fan like me of Watt's work with D. Boon and George Hurley. In the press materials Watt says that for many years after Boon's death in 1985 he avoided even listening to his old band; he faced down that pain in 2005, when he decided to help the creators of We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen. The punkish songs on Hyphenated-Man lack the melodicism Boon brought to the Minutemen, but they definitely sound like Watt's tunes for the group—angular and gritty, with his voice running the gamut from avuncular to sea-captain gruff. That's not to say it's a backward-looking album: by reclaiming the musical mode that suits him best, Watt has become stronger and more unstoppable than ever. This concert, part of a typically relentless 51-city tour, is also part of the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival (see page 24); Small Awesome opens. At 7 PM Schubas will host a screening of We Jam Econo and a Q&A session with Watt; that's $10, $5 if you have a ticket to the show afterward. 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15. —Peter Margasak

saturday16

ROLLIN HUNT See Thursday. Goat Flower and Laughing Eye Weeping Eye open. 8 PM, 2130 W. 21st, roxaboxenminicastle.com, donation requested.

RALPH STANLEY Now 84, Ralph Stanley is one of the last living links to the earliest days of bluegrass, and while his voice has roughened around the edges and lost a good bit of its clarion tone, its soulfulness isn't diminished at all. On his new album, A Mother's Prayer (Rebel), he once again digs into the genre's gospel repertoire, unearthing tunes that rarely turn up on recordings by younger bluegrass artists—including "John the Revelator," a song made famous by blues preacher Blind Willie Johnson, which Stanley treats to a gripping a cappella take. That track is one of several to isolate Stanley's voice, an instrument with an undeniable magnetism, and it's these tunes that best convey his wisdom and intimacy with the material. Of course, the tracks with his band the Clinch Mountain Boys are also potent, especially when the group tackles vintage material—Stanley's latest take on the standard "Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb" sounds as fresh and poignant as any I've heard. He first cut "Come All Ye Tenderhearted" more than 50 years ago, when he was playing with his brother Carter, and this version uses stark spoken passages and a bowed bass line intended to evoke the pealing sound of Uilleann pipes. Stanley's advanced age is a good argument to see him before it's too late, but his continued vitality is a much better one. Cherryholmes opens. 8 PM, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $20-$60. —Peter Margasak

LUC VAN ACKER, PAUL BARKER, AND CHRIS CONNELLY I always wondered how execs for the Revco chain felt about the Revolting Cocks and their fan-favorite nickname, RevCo; there's probably a whole generation of kids who giggled every time they bought condoms at one of those drugstores. Helmed in turn by several members (heh) of the Wax Trax! family, this lewd and rude industrial band had a great run from the mid-80s through the early 90s, and has been active in spurts (heh) as recently as last year; their never-duplicated aesthetic proved that "Eurotrash" and "redneck" can be blended with unforgettable results. For this show, part of the three-day Wax Trax! Records Retrospectacle, key former RevCo players Luc Van Acker, Paul Barker, and Chris Connelly will reach into the back catalog for RevCo's best-loved pieces of Parents Music Resource Center bait; after all, none of these guys are actually on 2010's Got Cock? (13th Planet), which is just as filthy as the band's classic albums but not as funny. My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult headlines; the Blue Ribbon Glee Club plays first, followed by Van Acker, Barker, and Connelly. Tonight's DJs are Peter Kent, Leroy Fields, Jeff Pazen, Bud Sweet, Jena Max, and Greg Haus. See also Sunday.  8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, sold out, 18+. —Monica Kendrick

sunday17

FRONT 242; LUC VAN ACKER, PAUL BARKER, AND CHRIS CONNELLY See Friday for Front 242; see Saturday for Luc Van Acker, Paul Barker, and Chris Connelly. This show is part of the Wax Trax! Records Retrospectacle. Front 242 headlines; Van Acker, Barker, and Connelly play second; En Esch, Guenter Schulz, Raymond Watts, and Mona Mur open performing the music of KMFDM. Tonight's DJs were TBA at press time. 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $41 ($350 VIP tables), 18+.

wednesday20

THE BACH PROJECT Soli Deo Gloria—or "SDG," as Bach frequently signed his scores—is Latin for "Glory Solely to God," as well as the name of a 17-year-old Glen Ellyn-based organization that commissions new works and produces concerts of sacred music (of all faiths) using top-tier orchestras and soloists. Its cofounder and artistic director, conductor John Nelson, has led nearly every great orchestra worldwide (and the sublime 1999 Lyric Opera production of Handel's Alcina with Renee Fleming), and now he fulfills his dream of a concert series in Chicago. The Bach Project is based on SDG's decade of Easter-week performances at Paris's Notre Dame, which rotated each year among Bach's three major liturgical works—the Mass in B Minor, the St. John Passion, and the St. Matthew Passion. The project kicks off tonight with the profoundly emotional St. Matthew Passion at the acoustically magnificent church of the St. Vincent de Paul Parish. The ensemble features musicians from Chicago's top orchestras, a double chorus hand-picked by Nelson and chorus master Donald Nally (who just resigned from that post at the Lyric), and impressive soloists including soprano Nicole Cabell, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Lane, tenor Nicholas Phan, and bass Douglas Williams.  7:30 PM, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, 1010 W. Webster, 773-325-8610, $40-$75. —Barbara Yaross

CROCODILES When San Diego duo Crocodiles released Summer of Hate in 2009, they were quickly grouped with the other Californians making waves with stoney, fuzz-toned interpretations of classic pop themes—Wavves, Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls. But they're a harsher toke than their contemporaries, with a more nocturnal attitude and a hint of danger. On their sophomore effort, last year's Sleep Forever (Fat Possum), they thicken the distortion—earning the Jesus and Mary Chain comparisons all over again—and up the creep factor with the addition of a ghoulish garage organ that sounds like they ordered it through an ad in the back of an Eerie comic. The title of the second track, "Stoned to Death," pretty much sums things up. The Fresh & Onlys and Young Prisms open. 8 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $12. —Miles Raymer

PARTS & LABOR It's high time people stopped calling Parts & Labor "experimental" or "noise rock." Though the band earned those labels coming up in the hoity-toity Brooklyn art-rock scene nearly a decade ago, since their 2008 album Receivers founding members Dan Friel and B.J. Warshaw have knotted the loose ends and tightened up the tangents to give Parts & Labor's sound a new clarity—these days it's more hooky than bizarre, more poppy than noisy. There's still some foggy weird to it—samples, chattering toys, snippets and sweeping waves of keyboard—but now they keep it on a leash. The new Constant Future (Jagjaguwar) further hones this approach, its melodies perfectly packaged in economical arrangements. Even the band's return to a three-piece lineup (Sarah Lipstate, who played guitar on Receivers, is gone) seems to have heightened the album's focus. Though Friel and Warshaw continue to share the mike, the transitions between their vocal timbres don't cause so much as a hiccup in the music's unstoppable flow. The songs on Constant Future range from triumphant, meaty anthems ("A Thousand Roads") to pulsing, sinister grooves ("Rest"), but it nonetheless projects a singular, unified energy—it's still early in the year for sure, but I'll be damned if this isn't one of the best things I've heard so far. Call Me Lightning and Child Bite open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Kevin Warwick

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