Willowz | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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I can hear why some folks write off the Willowz as White Stripes clones. Without a dominating guitarist or coherent lyrical persona, the defining figure in this young Anaheim quartet is Richie James Follin, whose vocals aren't unfamiliar-sounding. But his squeaky wail sounds less cribbed from Jack than arrived at by draining any residual melanin from 60s garage, and originality (or lack of it) isn't the point here anyhow. All garage rockers rip off their predecessors--that's what makes them garage rockers. Maybe if the Willowz did spot-on impressions of the Seeds or, hell, the Chesterfield Kings, the critics might hush up a bit, but the Willowz didn't pad out Talk in Circles (Sympathy for the Record Industry) to 20 songs just so they could do more impressions. Their goal's much more straightforward but trickier: to perpetually shuffle three chords into uniquely tuneful arrangements without losing your attention. Though they pulled it off more consistently last year on the nine-song Willowz, I'm with 'em for more than three-fourths of Talk in Circles--a winning percentage that'd put them about ten games up on the White Sox. If Jack White bowls you over with formal mastery and ingenuity, the Willowz wheedle, insinuate, and ultimately get over on intangibles: the charm of simulated spontaneity, a refusal to swap passive-aggressive petulance for macho bluster, and a frisky group gestalt. Above all, they're a band--and you really can't form one of those with just two people. Welcome to Ashley headlines, the Sleepers play second, and the Great Perhaps opens. Fri 8/12, 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $8.

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