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Friday 31

AGAINST ALL AUTHORITY This Miami quartet is best known as a ska-punk band, but on last year's split CD with the now-defunct Common Rider (on Hopeless Records), the ska part's reduced to bits of trumpet skittering through old-school protest punk like the anthem "Lied To" and the demonstrator's tale "Barricades." Their latest full-length, The Restoration of Chaos & Order (Hopeless), comes out in May. The Code, Brain Failure, and Crime in Stereo open. 6 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $10. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

EITHER/ORCHESTRA Harvard-educated saxist and composer Russ Gershon already had a rollicking, smart, appealingly deconstructionist little big band in the Either/Orchestra when, in 1997, he shook things up by incorporating traditional and popular Ethiopian music. Nobody saw that one coming, but after nine years--nearly half the band's life span--it's obviously more than just a passing fancy. Gershon's infatuation with hopping Ethiopian melodies, along with his skill at working them into the broad textures he creates for the band's six-man horn section, has yielded some terrific music, most recently last year's double CD Live in Addis, part of Buda's popular "Ethiopiques" series. Older pieces in the band's impressive book include off-kilter tributes to jazz greats, unexpected covers of tunes by Bob Dylan and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and riotous mashups like a medley of "Ode to Billie Joe" and Thelonious Monk's "Nutty." See also Saturday. 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12. --Neil Tesser

FUNCTIONAL BLACKOUTS These demented local punks are pulling a sneaky trick to keep the buzz going for their new full-length, The Severed Tongue Speaks for Everyone (Criminal IQ)--the release party for the vinyl version was two weeks ago, but the CD version won't be ready for its party till June. They're infamous as a crash-and-burn live outfit, and there are at least a couple venues in Chicago where they're no longer welcome--maybe you were one of the folks who got cleared out of the Mutiny last September after the band tore the place up. Sometimes, admittedly, they forget to crash and just stand onstage sulkily, but the record suffers from no such inconsistency; its bad-trip Boschian garage punk is hallucinatory, violent, and seething with creativity. (They're not afraid to whip out a big honking Fun House-style sax freak-out either.) On disc at least they come across as a good deal more arty and literary than standard-issue trash rockers--you get the feeling there's a Functional Blackouts manifesto in a drawer somewhere, and drummer Brian Costello is in fact pushing his first novel, The Enchanters vs. Sprawlburg Springs. Slim Cessna's Auto Club headlines, Indian plays second, and the Functional Blackouts open. 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $10. --Monica Kendrick

ROBERT PALLARD Guided by Voices epitomized how indie rock reinterpreted punk ideology in the 90s. Countless bands were prodding the "anything is possible" limits of punk's stylistic reach, yet there wasn't a "songwriter" to be found--just regular folks who happened to write songs. So it wasn't just OK for GBV to sound like a crappy Badfinger cover band, it was a fucking quantum miracle: Robert Pollard wound up being a rock star and utterly not a rock star at the same time. His latest solo album, From a Compound Eye (Merge), shows what a non-rock star does after dissolving his nonband: he releases an album that doesn't run screaming from anything he's done before. And I have a feeling his audience isn't going to stop granting him license to go on being that tipsy Janus, spiting the new decade and its new rules with more half-finished tunes built from American verses and British choruses, brought to fruition through his same minimal self-editing instincts. The High Strung open. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $18, 18+. --J. Niimi

Saturday 1

ARAB STRAP The music press is genuinely confused about Arab Strap's sixth album, The Last Romance (Transdreamer). It seems like I've read a review of it for every notch on the scale: one monthly says they've cheered up, one Web site says Aidan Moffat's further sharpened his characteristically bleak wit and seething disgust. But the scattershot takes are understandable: in a rock landscape of increasingly shallow, romanticized sentiment, this Scottish group stubbornly deals in emotional complexity. The album's shifting and clashing moods--realized in a faster, louder, richer, and now drum-machine-free sound crafted by multi-instrumentalist Malcolm Middleton and company--remind me of the gruff Glaswegian narrator in James Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late. Waking up after a giant bender and a police beat-down, he discovers he's blind and staggers his way through the novel with anger, self-pity, existential wit, calloused spirituality, and a searingly black sense of humor. By the end the filthy-mouthed lost cause wins you over through sheer will and a blazing humanity. A Whisper in the Noise opens. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $14. --J. Niimi

BRIEF CANDLES This Milwaukee quartet plays as if emo never happened, leaping back to a time when pulsating guitar layers and ice-cold vocals were the future of rock 'n' roll and there wasn't a lapse of imagination that a few effects pedals couldn't fix. (Can't blame them for trying: My Bloody Valentine made this stuff look easy.) Their second full-length, They Live We Sleep (Latest Flame), is a bit more mature than their 2003 debut; they're more confident about their self-absorption, more willing to test your attention span and capacity to withstand the vertigo that comes with all that rising and falling. City Electric and Syllable Section open. 6 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $8. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

EITHER/ORCHESTRA See Friday. 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12.

Sunday 2

BIRDY NAM NAM This quartet of French turntablists--the name is a Gallic transcription of Peter Sellers offering food to a bird in The Party--first gained notice for cutting and scratching their way to the team title at the 2002 DMC World DJ Championships. But rather than showcase pure flash on their new debut full-length, Birdy Nam Nam, they've assembled a slate of sample-based groovers, down-tempo funk stitched together by hand from a variety of sources. While their ambition is admirable, most of the album feels underdeveloped. Too often a handful of jazz licks is simply put through various permutations--run backward and forward, chopped up, stuttered--over an ambling beat for three or four minutes, and then the track ends, having provided neither narrative flow nor infectious rhythms along the way. While the CD is sleepy, the accompanying DVD does include footage of the crew performing live, which for a few minutes at least is pretty impressive. Small Sails and the Drift open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. --Peter Margasak

HANK WILLIAMS III Straight to Hell (Bruc) is Hank III's first album in four years, and he wants to make sure you don't feel shorted after the wait: it's a double CD, though disc two is pretty much just a freakish 42-minute collage of preaching, pigs, Hank I, mangled country cut-ups, and something in the background that sounds like a head repeatedly rammed into a wall. (Though I admit the head in question might've been mine after listening for about ten minutes.) The album proper is a soppy, self-indulgent, spitting, cussing lament, but dammit, that's what bitter, punked-out country singers are supposed to do. It has all the drama of an exorcism you aren't entirely sure is fake, with all the pathos of an Internet suicide note; its raving indictments of Nashville might not carry much weight anymore, but it's still a reminder that once upon a time country wasn't afraid to be downright abject in its rage and despair. Bob Wayne & the Outlaw Carnies open. 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $16, 18+. --Monica Kendrick

Tuesday 4

CESARIA EVORA On the new Rogamar (RCA Victor) the Voice of the Cape Verde Islands again experiments with styles beyond her specialty, the melancholy ballad form called the morna. On 2001's Sao Vicente that praiseworthy impulse was spoiled by muddled and apparently marketing-driven execution, but Rogamar is both diverse and very much of a piece, thanks to the even-handed production by her pianist, Fernando Andrade. Evora brings her elegant and soulful tone to African-style sambas and upbeat Cape Verdean dance styles. A pair of collaborations--one with the great Senegalese singer Ismael Lo, another with Madagascan accordionist Regis Gizavo--trace the subtle threads connecting the music of distant African nations. Of course there are a few gorgeous mornas here too, in which Evora's rich, deepening voice (she's now 64), set amid lush strings, cascading piano, and gently picked cavaquinho, is the epitome of saudade--that indescribable feeling of longing found only in Portuguese-language music. 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $20-$60. --Peter Margasak

Wednesday 5

SWOLLEN MEMBERS The Swollen Members have apparently decided to act like their previous album, 2003's Heavy, never happened--it's missing from the bio and discography on their Web site, and their MySpace page doesn't mention it either. I can't say I blame them. The club-ready bubblegum hip-hop on Heavy pissed off a lot of their oldest fans--its jiggy vibe was pretty much the antithesis of the blood-curdling Castlevania sound the Members made their name with. Mad Child, Prevail, and Rob the Viking are clearly hoping to redeem themselves with the forthcoming Black Magic, tentatively scheduled for an August release on Mad Child's Battle Axe label. One of the four free downloadable tracks at swollenmembers.com uses Phantom of the Opera synths to create the same lurid comic-book feel the group's early stuff whipped up with creepy piano and ghoulish vocal samples, and another rocks a sublimely funky flute loop. Even "Too Hot," which is relatively bubbly and bouncy, is at least inoffensive. Mad Child and Prevail don't rap like D&D nerds as consistently as they used to, but my ears still perk up whenever they deliver lines like "The lords of the hidden world, seance and candlelight / Connections to spirits that dance in the afterlife." These guys are definitely still the baddest dudes at the Renaissance Faire. Sweatshop Union, Visual & Rhyme Scheme, and Yuri Lane open. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $10 in advance, $12 at the door, 18+. --Kabir Hamid

thursday6

BIRD SHOW, FURSAXA Town and Country made extensive use of African and Arabic flavors on their new Up Above (Thrill Jockey), and band member Ben Vida cast a similarly wide net to create the hypnotic, swirling drones on Lightning Ghost (Kranky), the second album from his solo project BIRD SHOW. Though he plays a host of North African instruments on the record, he's wisely chosen not to try to evoke the region's music. Instead he makes their gorgeous colors another part of his mix of electronics, guitar, and hand percussion; he also multitracks his wan voice into somnambulant chants that swim amid the high-end string screeches, dense grooves, and resonant analog-synth pulsations. But what truly distinguishes this lulling sound art from most similar projects is his willingness to disrupt the glow with well-placed ripples of feedback and other sudden noise bursts. For this show, a release party for Lightning Ghost, he'll be joined by his brother, drummer Adam Vida, and bassist Josh Abrams. --Peter Margasak

FURSAXA is Tara Burke, who uses delay pedals to loop her plaintive singing and short phrases on guitar, accordion, organ, and flute into hypnotic, drifting songs. There aren't any easy comparisons to her music in rock--Nico's bleakest moment, The Marble Index, comes closest--but Burke claims the 12th-century abbess and composer Hildegard von Bingen as a significant influence. By combining slowly developing melodies, rapidly expanding harmonies, and thick drones, she generates a see-your-breath-in-the-cathedral vibe so chilly you might put a match to your hymnal just to warm your hands. Sacrilegious as that might be, it wouldn't necessarily be out of line: Burke adorns her records with playfully pagan images, from the earth-mother temptress on Mandrake (Eclipse) to the fallopian butterfly spreading its wings on the recent Lepidoptera (ATP). --Bill Meyer

Jack Rose headlines, Fursaxa plays second, and Bird Show opens. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8.

NEW AMSTERDAMS The shimmery, pillow-soft quality of Matt Pryor's music in the New Amsterdams feels like a bit of a retreat from the poppy punk of his old group, the Get Up Kids--maybe part of what's the matter with Kansas is an isolation that makes self-indulgent navel-gazing seem inevitable. But the band's fourth album, Story Like a Scar (Vagrant), at least does the job it sets out to: Pryor's poor-me, bittersweet lines are prettily soaked in guitar and organ, and the windswept grass his voice evokes seems like it'd be nice to lie in. Treaty of Paris, the City on Film, and This Is Me Smiling open. 7 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-252-6179 or 866-468-3401, $11 in advance, $13 day of show. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

MARIA TAYLOR If Conor Oberst really is our new Dylan, then Maria Taylor's our new Joan Baez: though she's half of the sad-pop duo Azure Ray (who are half of Now It's Overhead), she's probably best known for dating Oberst. Which is a shame, because she'd do just fine on her own merits. Her solo debut, last year's 11:11 (Saddle Creek), is a nice showcase for her small, breathy voice. About half the album is made up of moody tracks where her quivery sighs mesh with a skittery electro hodgepodge; the best of them cast her as a tender, emofied Kate Bush, while the worst recall the sort of faux-sensual House Music Lite you hear in TV commercials for expensive cars. She comes off better on the indie-acoustic songs, which have a gentler touch--brushed drums, soft strums, and her butterfly voice--but sound more distinct and purposeful. Mates of State headline and Saturday Looks Good to Me opens. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $15, 18+. --Jessica Hopper

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