The Notwist | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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I find a lot of the songwriting on the much praised Neon Golden (Domino, 2002), the most recent album by the German post-rock band the Notwist, to be unremarkable, and Markus Acher often seems like the ultimate faceless, all-purpose indie front man: sweet, timid, sensitive, an abiding love of beauty, zzzzz. Yet thanks to electronicist Martin Gretschmann (aka Console), who joined the group in the late 90s, they consistently manage to transcend their limitations. The comparisons to Radiohead you'll sometimes hear are a stretch--these guys just don't achieve that kind of grandeur or textural sophistication--but one can still appreciate the band's modest excellence and restraint in blending so many ingredients. The pleasure is mostly in subtle details: the pizzicato cello that opens "Consequence," the gentle sax lines underscoring the chord patterns of "Trashing Days," the drum 'n' bass grooves (both electronic and acoustic) that toughen the jangling guitar on "This Room." And a few songs, like the title track--which floats on a mix of steely banjo arpeggios, airy flute-and-clarinet lines, and faux-tabla beats, as Acher puts across his vulnerability with tiny dips in pitch--are so strong as compositions they'd be memorable even without the trimmings. A new remix EP, Different Cars and Trains, overhauls the material without straying too far from the group's basic sound. I haven't seen the Notwist live, so I can't say how well they re-create the studio magic, but given that they started out 15 years ago as a guitar band, I'll bet they know their way around a stage. Themselves open. Sunday, February 8, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.

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