Time once again to dip into
the always overflowing bins of D.I.Y. or ultra-indie releases by local
bands. Here are some of the most noteworthy from recent months.
Before I even gave it a
spin, I had a hunch the eight-song debut EP by Let's Get Out of This
Terrible Sandwich Shop might have some traits in common with Barenaked
Ladies, the Presidents of the United States of America and They Might Be
Giants; a fair amount of shtick just goes along with the moniker. Like those
groups, this trio, which is led by Farfisa-playing frontman Tony Mendoza, a
drummer for Second City and cast member with Annoyance Productions, has a
way of crafting strong pop hooks, but they can be overwhelmed by the goofy
lyrics -- tunes such as "Bike Lane" and "Hot Muffler" hold up to repeated
listening, but "Hot Sandwich Hotline" doesn't. On the other hand, this is
the perfect group to share a bill with the "Metallica-meets-the-Fab-Four"
Beatallica on April Fool's Day. The show starts at 10 p.m. at Subterranean,
2011 W. North. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door. For more on the
band, visit www.letsgetoutofthisterriblesandwichshop.com.
Speaking of names that
properly evoke the sound of the band, Rollo Tomasi takes its handle
from the mysterious, never-seen cop killer in the hard-hitting noir "L.A.
Confidential," and -- no surprise -- songs such as "Horror Day," "Working
Class Promise" and "So Cruel" from the quartet's new album, "Work Slow Crush
Foes," are classic gritty, minimalist, urban-Chicago noise-rock in the mode
of Shellac or Tar, with hints of the emotional wallop and stray hooks in the
best of Jawbox. The band will perform at Subterranean at 9 p.m. on April 6
with Tha 446, Driftless Pony Club and Flub Club. Tickets are $6. For more on
Rollo Tomasi, check out www.rollotomasi.com.
"Q & A" is actually the
third indie album by Office, an electronic-folk and pop outfit
fronted by former Londoner Scott Mason, though it's the first since he moved
to Chicago, solidified the band's lineup as a two-woman, two-man quartet and
quit his day job to concentrate on music. Mason, who is also a sculptor,
used to make artwork from discarded office supplies, and his music is fueled
by the sunny, optimistic daydreaming of the temp worker who wishes he or she
was anywhere else. It should be pumped over the Muzak systems of every
company in the Loop. After several shows at South by Southwest in Texas, the
group will be gearing up for a Monday night residency at Schubas, 3159 N.
Southport, in May. More info at www.reachoffice.com.
Formed by veterans of
the Pillowmints and Not Rebecca, The Venom Lords are another
two-girl, two-guy quartet, but they're aiming for more of a stripped-down
and danceable New Wave of New Wave sound: You can tell by the black shirts
and white ties, as well as by the song structures, which are part Blondie or
Joan Jett and part early '90s English shoegazer rock. They haven't quite
perfected their sound on their self-titled eight-song EP, but
guitarist-vocalist Gina Knapik has personality to spare, and she and Dan
Knapik unleash a powerful two-guitar attack on songs such as "Parachute
Pants" and "Witch King." The Chicago foursome hits the road for a show at
Viele's Planet, 126 E. Jefferson in Springfield, at 7 p.m. Saturday. You
also can check them out at www.venomlords.com.
C-Boy Committy, are another work in progress, a trio of young rappers --
Yung Element, Budda and main man and producer Headcutta -- who hail from
Joliet, just like Jake from the Blues Brothers and Smashing Pumpkins drummer
Jimmy Chamberlin. The productions are a little rough, the beats a bit
predictable and the raps somewhat stilted, but there's a serious spark and
plenty of promise on their debut album, "Dangerous Group," which starts
strong with the group's best track, a Midwestern hip-hop anthem called
"Hometown." The crew has big plans, as evidenced by the myriad projects
tracked on its Web site, www.cbcmusic.biz.
The key attraction in
the back-porch folk-jazz-county combo Radiant Darling is former
Pelvic Delta singer Ami Saraiya, who has turned from her earlier group's
swampy funk toward a much more enigmatic and hard to pin down sound, which
is alternately sultry and alluring and heartbreakingly sad throughout the
impressive "Cryptomnesia" album. The group is currently a trio with Saraiya,
Ben Gray on drums and Casey Meehan on guitar, though it is often joined by
Marck Fick on accordion and Marc Piane on upright bass. While it doesn't
have any shows listed on its Web site (www.radiantdarling.com) at the
moment, I'm eager to catch this band onstage.
remains one of the most imaginative indie labels on the local hip-hop scene,
but the genre-hopping quartet Royce have as much in common with the
genteel post-rock of the Sea and Cake or the recent wave of electronic
musicians who reinvent '70s disco and funk as they do with easy-flowing rap
labelmates such as Mestizo and Offwhyte, with whom they memorably
collaborate on a track fittingly titled "Ebbs and Flows" from their second
album, "Tuff Love," scheduled to drop in May. More info at
Increments" is the winning sophomore album by Ryan's Hope. Drummer
Greg Alltop, guitarist-vocalist Terry Morroe and bassist Nick McLenighan
originally came together as part of a five-piece hard-core band, and there
are still hints of that sound in the aggression of their frantic rhythms, as
well as touches of death metal in the dark lyrical topics of songs such as
"Exorcism," "The Carpathian" and "By the Sword." But the abundance of
anthemic hooks here is solidly in the tradition of Midwestern pop-punk
favorites such as the Alkaline Trio or, though they'd probably hate the
comparison, Fall Out Boy. The band's impressive Web site (www.ryanshopemusic.com)
allows you to sample its music and hear for yourself.
Hailing from the
trippier, more mind-meltingly psychedelic end of the stoner-rock spectrum,
the crunching trio Lunar Breakdown have released a searing seven-song
EP called "Behind the Calm." The vocals have an eerie similarity at times to
Eddie Vedder (or, even worse, Scott Stapp), but the mix of pounding and
lulling dynamics and Mike Melie's guitar are more than enough to make up for
any misgivings that might raise. The group will perform at the Red Line Tap,
7006 N. Glenwood, at 10 p.m. on April 8. Check out its Web site at
Finally, one more entry
from even further out in the psychedelic stratosphere comes from veteran
space-rockers and home-recording wizards Plastic Crimewave Sound. "No
Wonderland" is a sprawling 18-track album full of otherworldly weirdness,
offering ample testament of why the quintet (with occasional helpers on
strings, harp, sitar and flute) has been championed by the likes of veteran
acidheads Julian Cope and Helios Creed. The group will perform at
Subterranean on April 10 and at the Lyon's Den, 1934 W. Irving, on April 23,
and it has to be seen to be believed. Meanwhile, check out its transmissions
from Mars at www.nihilistrecords.net/pcs.
*Local bands can send
music to Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic, Chicago Sun-Times, 350 N. Orleans,
Chicago IL 60654.