Wilderness | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Wilderness

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If you've listened to Wilderness's self-titled debut and realized that these guys must be very enamored of an album called Metal Box, give yourself a prize, smart guy. But this Baltimore quartet gets bonus points for borrowing the one element of Public Image Ltd.'s sound that hasn't been aped by a billion neo-postpunk bands--John Lydon's vocals. Their label, Jagjaguwar, says they sound like Johnny Rotten fronting Explosions in the Sky, which is true. (And a friend of mine says they sound like a prettified version of PiL, which is also true--though that pretty much sums up Explosions in the Sky as well.) Even if Wilderness are blatantly cribbing, they lend credence to the old saw that a great copy is sometimes better than the original. Yeah, they've got the Jah Wobble dub bass lines, the Martin Atkins tribal ritual for crash cymbal, and the spindly gyroscopics of Keith Levene's arpeggiated guitar lines. But their hypnotic tunes are also a lot more dynamically nuanced, not to mention more melodic, than the real McCoy--no small point with music that's all about texture and monotony--and they don't sound like they're about to fuck up or break up at any moment either. And for what it's worth, they've got me walking around the house imitating their goofy singer, who's clearly influenced by Lydon but also has a habit of finishing every phrase with an upturned curlicue--a weird inversion of Mark E. Smith's side-of-the-mouth "uh" suffix (as in "God damn the pedantic Welsh-uh!"). Zelienople and Michael Columbia open. Sat 11/19, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8.

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