Goldstars freshen garage genre with 'Purple Girlfriend'


June 9, 2006


Its members have been some of the most familiar faces on local stages for the last two decades, and the sound the group is dedicated to exploring -- gloriously primitive, wonderfully snarling garage rock -- is certainly nothing new. But the Goldstars are nonetheless one of the freshest groups on the Chicago music scene, and their recently released second album, "Purple Girlfriend," is as good as the genre gets.

"I think the goal this time was just trying to take what we had and go into the studio and lay it down; there wasn't really a concept per se," says bassist-vocalist Matt Favazza, who goes by the nom de rock of "Sal."

"Basically, when we started the band, I just loved the 'Nuggets' era" -- the period of mid-'60s garage-rock one-hit-wonder charted by Lenny Kaye on the "Nuggets" album. "It was an amazing time in music, because you could still have a local band from an area no one heard of have a hit, and to me, that was almost glamorous: You had a chance! Like hitting the lottery or something, the odds were still stacked against you, but the chance was there.

"You didn't have to be the best player in town; you just did it! You took everything you had and made the best of it. It was a very in-the-moment kind of thing. I always really center on where I'm at; I don't think, 'Oh, I want to try to destroy the world or do this or that.' I want to just start where I'm at and where I live. These bands had the opportunity to do that, and they wrote some really great songs."

So, too, did the Goldstars, especially on the new album, which has fewer covers than their fine 2003 Pravda Records debut, "Gotta Get Out." Witness the rampaging fury of "Fire," which finds guitarist Dag Juhlin alternating between a choppy R&B rhythm and fiery riffs as drummer Goodtime hammers a frug-worthy groove, keyboardist Skipper colors the sound with a trashy organ drone, and Sal howls, "You've got a fire, baby, and I ain't gonna put you out!"

After about a decade behind the drums with the power-pop band the Krinkles, Sal/Favazza was looking for new challenges in 2002. "Not that I didn't identify with the music, but creatively, I was like, 'Man, I'd really like to do stuff that's a lot simpler. I started to listen to a lot more primitive music, and I was at a show with Skipper" -- a k a New Duncan Imperials bassist and Pravda founder Kenn Goodman -- "and I just kind of turned to him and went, 'Do you want to be in my band?' It was really dumb, because when you've been playing for a while and then you're not in a band, you feel like an idiot; you don't know what to do with yourself. I was in that stage and was like, 'You know what? Maybe he'll want to do something. NDI hasn't been as active as they've been in the past.'

"So Skipper came on board first, and then he was like, 'I guess we're going to need a singer.' I said, "No, no, I want to sing and play bass; we need a drummer.' He said, 'What about Goodtime?'" (NDI rhythm king John Smith, a k a Goodtime, guards his real identity better than some mob informants.) "I was really surprised; I don't know why, but I didn't think he'd want to be in a band with me."

A few guitarists came and went in the months that followed, until the lineup was completed by Dag Juhlin, the "Chicago rock legend" (it says so on his Web site) and guitarist for Poi Dog Pondering and the Slugs. "He was originally kind of a fill-in," Sal says. "But we were praying he'd want to stay and that he could do it, because he's so busy. This is not a money gig; we do it because we love it. Dag is an incredible player and songwriter, and he's just so funny and so much fun to hang out with. Anyway, he was having fun, and he stayed, and if he didn't, I wouldn't be here and we wouldn't have a second record."

So Dag has given the Chicago scene one more reason to thank him, and the Goldstars have given us one of the most vital sets of garage rock that recent revival has produced, easily earning a place beside the Hives, the Mooney Suzuki or Jack White's new side project, the Raconteurs.

"I don't think we really fit in with a lot of what's going on because we're not really traditional -- we're not purists," Sal says. "I love that stuff, but I like a lot of other things, too. I never intended it to be a really purist band where we would dress exactly like Paul Revere and the Raiders. I like bands like the Hives and Mooney Suzuki, who aren't afraid and aren't really traditional."

New Duncan Imperial fans may miss the Silly String, and Poi Dog followers may find the rhythms much less hippie-twirl-inducing, but the Goldstars are guaranteed to deliver the hard-rockin' goods at Saturday night's record-release party at the Hideout, and Sal does promise some surprises. "We have some amazing go-go dancers from Kansas City," he says, laughing.


After a 14-year break from issuing any solo recordings, Tom Verlaine, the main vocalist and one of two guitar heroes in the legendary art-punk band Television, gave us not one but two new albums earlier this spring, both issued on Chicago's always adventurous Thrill Jockey Records label.

Like 1992's "Warm and Cool," the new disc "around" is an instrumental set that finds Verlaine offering 16 varied explorations of his famously clean and precise sound, which can range from vintage San Francisco psychedelia (Quicksilver Messenger Service has always been one of his most unheralded influences) to Duane Eddy twang, and from heavily reverbed and vibrato-laden surf music to flights of free jazz. His first vocal album since "The Wonder" in 1990, "songs and other things" is a more rocking but slightly less successful disc. It lacks a single tune as strong as "Postcard from Waterloo," much less anything from Television's first two albums, but again, lovers of inventive rock guitar will find plenty to draw them in.

Verlaine recorded the latter disc with a group of musicians including drummer Louie Appel and Television bassist Fred Smith, who are playing in his touring band along with guitarist Jimmy Rip. Verlaine's Chicago gig at 8 p.m. Monday is one you probably don't want to miss, and it's been moved from Metro to the more intimate Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door Call (773) 489-3160 for more information.