A dip into the local music grab bag


January 26, 2001



As promised a few weeks ago, here's another sampling of the best of the local band bin, which is never short of quality submissions.

While I eventually listen to at least part of every recording I receive from a local artist, it's impossible to write about all of them. How, then, do I choose the contenders for these occasional roundups?

For starters, bands have to have their acts together in terms of what they submit for review. Don't even think of sending your music out unless your CD or cassette is accompanied by a short fact sheet--nothing fancy, but names and some basic info are essential--and a nice, clear photo that will reproduce in the newspaper.

I'm also looking for bands that I've heard good "buzz" about. Though the music industry often makes this seem like some elusive magical elixir, it's really no mystery: People talking about you equals buzz equals news!

Finally, and most importantly, these are the discs that kept me listening; discs that I couldn't just eject from the CD player after a song or two. In the best cases, they're the ones I wanted to play again as soon as they were over. I can never get enough of those, so keep 'em coming care of the Chicago Sun-Times, 401 N. Wabash, Chicago 60611.

Bumpus, "Stereoscope"

(Kaprow) ***

The second do-it-yourself album by this groove-happy sextet is a solid effort that benefits from three alternating lead vocalists, the strongest of whom is the smoky-voiced Rachael Yamagata. Bumpus calls its music "post-funk," but it's pretty firmly rooted in the George Clinton/Funkadelic bag of big, bad, booty-shakin' rhythms, with a touch of jam-band elasticity in the group's fluid arrangements. Jams such as "Brass Ring" and "Face Gone" probably work best in a crowded club setting--or blasting on the stereo at your next house party. (www.bumpusweb.com)



*Peking Turtle, "Airtite"

(Honey Girl) ***

Speaking of funky jam/party bands, Peking Turtle is another strong ensemble that's part of a growing scene of smart groove or acid jazz bands following in the tradition of Liquid Soul. Like Bumpus, a major part of Peking Turtle's appeal is the contrast between the solid bottom of its motivating dance grooves and the gutsy female vocals of Typhanie Monique Coller and Shana Spiegel. Lead singer Coller has been compared with some justification to a young Chaka Khan, and tracks such as "Superhero" and "Honey Girl" cast a slinky, sexy spell even if you aren't shaking it on the dance floor. (www.pekingturtle.com)



*Yvonne Doll & the Locals,


*"My Kind of Freak"

(www.localsmusic.com) ** 1/2

Following up on her solo acoustic debut, "Bliss," singer-songwriter Yvonne Doll formed an acoustic rock/amped-up folk quartet and made the jump from coffeehouses to clubs. If at times her rockergirlgrowl is a bit too reminiscent of Melissa Etheridge or Ani DiFranco, songs such as "Winter Skin" are elevated a notch by the sensitive playing of the rhythm section (think Fairport Convention's Dave Mattacks and Dave Pegg) and the spirited violin sawing of Christy Nunes.



*The Leah Galyean Band,


*"The Leah Galyean Band"

(www.leahgalyeanband.com) **

Northwestern grad and transplanted Californian Leah Galyean shares some influences and similar goals with Yvonne Doll, as well as dozens of other singer-songwriters on the local scene. She rises above the pack by virtue of her pure, ringing voice and the poetic power of her lyrics; "Hush" is a haunting song about child sexual abuse, while "Damascus" is an effective tale of personal enlightenment. Unfortunately, the arrangements and production tend toward the overly fussy and pristine--I'd like to hear Galyean letting loose in a more rocking setting, or over an organic folk-rock backing like the Locals'.



*Post Office,




*in Slang"

(www.postofficemusic.com) **

By contrast, the production saves the day on the second album by power-popsters Post Office. Auteurs Stephen Becker and Larry O. Dean aren't the strongest singers in the world, and their tunes aren't as distinctive as those by, say, Frisbie, let alone a Matthew Sweet. But former dB's great Chris Stamey mixes the disc (the increasingly in-demand Ed Tinley recorded it at King Size Sound Labs), and the walls of chiming guitars, rampaging drums and Beatlesesque slicks and tricks, such as layered harmonies and tinkling keyboards, make for engaging listening through most of the 14 tunes.



*The Motion, "The Motion"


*(Sad Loud America) ***

Though it hails from Chicago, the Motion rocks as if it's from Detroit in the early '70s, updating the grand tradition of Motor City madmen such as the MC5, the Stooges and Ted Nugent with a hint of modern stoner rock (the trio cites Fu Manchu among its influences, and fans of Queens of the Stone Age will find plenty of common ground). Guitarist-vocalist Brent Larson doesn't have a heck of a lot to sing about--"I want you to want me to make love to you," he howls at one point (he's a Rockford native, so I suppose he's entitled to paraphrase Cheap Trick)--but you'll be banging your head so enthusiastically, you won't really care. (www.the-motion.com)





*Patton & His




*"Big Bully"

(Rok-Steady) **

To look at 'em, guitarist-vocalist Jim Patton and his buddies are as motley and unhip a combo as you've ever seen, but those are superficial concerns when considering whether a band can deliver the rock 'n' roll goods; ZZ Top never won any beauty pageants, either. This band recalls that combo in its blues-rock intensity and musical chops, though it replaces the Texas twang with a rootsy, Midwestern pop-rock sensibility that powers blue-collar anthems such as "Wasted" ("Let's get wasted, come on let's get wasted all night long") and "Fixture" ("I got my rock 'n' roll Ph.D. at a bar that's next to me/And I should have graduated by now"). It might not be rocket science, but it does have a propulsive kick.



*Kim, "Kim"

EP (www.kimrock.com) ** 1/2

The members of this quartet arrive bearing impressive pedigrees. Bassist Atsu Nagayama played in the Boredoms and the Prescriptions, and drummer Mia Park hosts the cable TV show "Chic a Go Go!" But those facts and the group's political agenda of challenging the stereotypes of Asian-American women should both be considered footnotes to the real reason Kim is worth your attention: its effervescent, high-energy indie-rock. Accomplished players one and all, the musicians craft intricate "math-rock" arrangements (witness the instrumental "Candy Candy") that are leavened by massively catchy pop hooks, a winning sense of humor and a disarming emotional honesty ("Mortified").

Jim DeRogatis co-hosts "Sound Opinions," the world's only rock 'n' roll talk show, from 10 p.m. to midnight Tuesday on WXRT-FM (93.1). E-mail him via www.jimdero.com.