Waxwings | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Aurora label Bobsled Records has released some fine albums in the past three years--by the Chamber Strings, Velvet Crush, and Adventures in Stereo--but none so unexpected as the Waxwings' debut, Low to the Ground (2000), a grimy blast of psychedelia and Merseybeat pop charged with the energy of Detroit garage. According to the label's folklore, owner Bob Salerno struck up a conversation with songwriter Dean Fertita at the Detroit record store where Fertita worked, and Fertita sent Bobsled a demo tape that got him signed. The Waxwings were pulled together quickly thereafter, but under the supervision of Salerno (who produced, arranged, mixed, and played guitar and percussion) they made a winning sound on the first album; as anyone who's seen them in the past year can testify, they've since jelled into a strong live band (buoyed in particular by guitarist and harmony vocalist Dominic Romano). Salerno retreats to the role of executive producer on the new Shadows of the Waxwings, and working with Minneapolis engineer Bryan Hanna again, the band turns in something slower, grubbier, and more adventurous. "Wired That Way" begins as a lo-fi Stonesy shuffle, somersaults into a hard-rocking section (powered by bassist Kevin Peyok and drummer James Edmunds), then subsides into the earlier rhythm, the final verse crowned by horns. The record dips into a darker part of the 60s than its predecessor: "Almost All Day" recalls Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds' Fifth Dimension echoes in the fat 12-string licks of "Fractured," and the wistful acoustic waltz "Into Tomorrow" culminates in a wheezing harmonica solo. Full of ideas and just hitting their stride as songwriters, the Waxwings earn the right to wear the glass slipper for another year. Saturday, May 4, 10 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408.

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