We Ragazzi | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Though no one in We Ragazzi lives in Chicago anymore, folks here still have sufficiently warm feelings for the band that this gig is being treated like a hometown CD-release show. (Their third album, Wolves With Pretty Lips, comes out on Suicide Squeeze later in the month.) For those who haven't been keeping up with the We Ragazzi saga: Original drummer Alianna Kalaba, who elected not to rejoin the band after a brief 1999 breakup, is back behind the kit. She replaces Timothy McConville, who quit to move to New York City last year; ironically enough, after Kalaba returned the trio also decided to move to the Big Apple, and they've since become darlings of the Williamsburg scene. Since their 1999 debut, Suicide Sound System, We Ragazzi have been honing an aesthetic that blends retro rock and tortured neo-no wave, and Wolves feels like a real payoff. Recorded, mixed, and mastered in just over a week by Paper Chase front man John Congleton, the disc comes on with a slow-glowing charm--a pleasant change from the arch, preening Prince-isms of its predecessor, 2002's The Ache. Anthony Rolando's leering vocals and lascivious guitar lines still bristle with menace, but keyboardist Colleen Burke warms them up with her sweet counterpoint singing, while Kalaba's nervous beats keep things bumping from top to bottom. We Ragazzi have always worked emo (the less odious bits) and fatback blues into their sound, but Wolves goes even further, blending all the group's influences--art-rock confessionals, electropop melodrama, and everything in between--into a single potent brew. Opening this show are Tight Phantomz (the new band from ex-Lustre King main man Mike Lust), local supergroup ZZZZ (ex-Sweep the Leg Johnny, ex-Check Engine), and Le Beast. Saturday, May 8, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499.

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