More local notes from the underground


October 4, 2002




Continuing the Local Band Roundup: more D.I.Y. release by Chicago-area bands. Zelienople, "Pajama Avenue" (Loose Thread, ***1/2 Entrancing dream-pop/shoegazer rock with bass, guitar, synthesizer, clarinet, and drums from three Rogers Park lads dedicated to transporting listeners to the furthest reaches of the audio galaxy. The band could be a bit sleepy in live performance, but I haven't heard much better headphones music from Chicago in some time.

Cattivo, "Cattivo and His Orchestra" (Ecco) ***1/2

Mixed by Mike Hagler of Western Sound Labs (whose name seems to appear on two out of three discs mentioned in these local columns), this 11-track compilation of home recordings offers an intriguing overview of the mysterious Cattivo's oeuvre, an ambitious mix of Middle Eastern drones, Brazilian rhythms, psychedelic rock, and Serge Gainsbourg-style sexual come-ons. Not since the Goblins (Dario Argento's soundtrack band, not the Chicago garage rockers) has there been mood music this strange or evocative.

Kiss N Ride, "Somebody's Idea of Fun"/"Last Train to Saintsville" ( ***

Following up their promising "My Vanity" single, the local quartet offers up two more strong tracks, the first a nice slice of psychedelic drone straight out of the "Nuggets" garage, the second a catchy, driving power-pop riffer that will appeal to fans of the Hives and the Vines alike.

Ruth Buzzy, "Mission Statement" (No Record Company) **

And speaking of exquisitely crafted power-pop, this group (fleshed out from a duo to a trio by former Busker Soundcheck leader Paul Kamp) offers up a dozen cuts highlighted by gorgeous vocal harmonies. The group can devolve into Barenaked Ladies shtick ("Some Girls"), but when it plays it straight and hard ("Every Kid Knows"), it's hard to resist.

Analog Radio, "Analog Radio" ( **1/2

A veteran sideman for the likes of Tom Daily and Red Star Belgrade, Dann Morr has put together his own quartet and debuted with four strong tunes in the grand Midwestern power-pop tradition. "Wake up from your daydream," he sings on the opening cut, but it's more fun to lay back and revel in the chiming guitars and layered harmonies. (Analog Radio performs at 9 p.m. on Oct. 10 at the Lyon's Den, 1934 W. Irving Park Rd.)

The J. Davis Trio, "The New No. 2" (Yo Yo; ***

These four local musicians (drums, vocals, bass/clarinet, and trumpet) bill their inventive sound as "rap music for the rest of us." Think of it as Chicago's answer to the fluid, jazzy, musically challenging hip-hop of the Roots, and revel in the smart, sexy grooves of their solid debut album.

The Steepwater Band, "Brother to the Snake" ( **1/2

Proof that foot-stompin', Jack Daniel's-swiggin' Southern rockers needn't hail from anywhere near the Mason-Dixon Line, or further south than the Loop. The Black Crows wish they'd written a tune as cool and funky as "Back to the Bottle," and the rest of the long-haired quartet's D.I.Y. album is just as potent, trippy, and sweet as pecan pie. (The Steepwater Band performs an all-blues show at Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash, at 9 p.m. on Oct. 10.)

Knife of Simpson, "1776..." (Corn Chopper, ***

While we've heard a lot of great stoner rock of late, none of these bong-totin' bands have expressed much of an interest with earthbound concerns like politics. On this three-song single, the Chicago quartet adds smart, angry socio-political critiques to the standard mix of cowbell, grinding AC/DC rhythm guitar, and massive Deep Purple riffs. Inspirational lyric from the title cut: "They fired their cannons across Massachusetts Bay... 1776 man, it's the year the s--- goes down!"

Bible of the Devil, "Firewater at My Command" (Genuflect; **1/2

And speaking of stoner rock, Bible of the Devil is a hard-touring quartet that proudly wears its influences on its sleeve. Pretty much all you need to know about its head-banging sound can be summed up in the titles to two tracks on its 12-song album: opener "The New Raw" and "Asheton" (a tribute to the brothers who powered the mighty Stooges).

Light FM, "Light FM" ( ***

The new group led by former Motorhome main man Josiah Mazzaschi continues to build on that band's promise by developing a bright, quirky, techno-flavored psychedelic-pop sound on tunes such as "Never Gonna Get Up," "Stormtroopers," and "Eli Miller." Coos Mazzaschi: "I don't understand these kids these days/Popping those bills and going to raves." I'm with him; they could be listening to this group instead. (Light FM plays at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, on Friday, Oct. 12.)

Shelley Miller, "Tear Me Down" ( **1/2

A California immigrant carving out a place for herself on Chicago's thriving singer-songwriter circuit, Miller succeeds on the strength of her limited but expressive vocals and a strong sense of humor best displayed on the final track, the wonderfully titled "Mama's Brand Spankin' New Redneck Boyfriend." (Shelley Miller performs as part of Ralph Covert's student showcase at 8 p.m. on Oct. 28 at Wise Fools Pub, 2270 N. Lincoln.)

The Tuffetts, "Jump on the Tiger" ( **1/2

With Melissa Urbanski (formerly of Kim and Joygirl) front and center on guitar and in-your-face vocals, the Tuffetts offer the nastiest, sassiest, female-fronted rock this side of Evil Beaver (though they've turned down the bass a bit, morphing into a trio since recording this album as a two-basses quartet). I could live without the tune about Rob Zombie, but other numbers such as "Fuzzy" and "Groovy" are aptly titled.

Capital D, "Writer's Block (the movie)" ( ***

Dave Kelly, a.k.a. Capital D, the lead rapper with the talented crew All Natural, strikes out on his own with a groovy, laidback, ultra-tuneful set of 14 solo tracks such as "Young Girl Lost" and "Mrs. Manley." This is sharp, funny, passionate, and politically aware hip-hop in the tradition of Chicago ex-patriate Common.

The Primeridian, "I'll Meet You in Greenwich" (Promihjay 8) ***

Too often overshadowed by gangsta-oriented sounds from the left and right coasts, Chicago's hip-hop underground is clearly thriving. "Why you be on that all mellow s---? Why don't y'all make some of that hardcore east- or west-coast s---?" is the question this duo poses to itself on the introductory track to this diverse 21-song set. The answer: "You should head over to Midway, purchase yourself a ticket, and go listen to some grooves out there!" Meanwhile, the Primeridian boldly strikes out on its own musically sophisticated, politically positive path.

Danger Adventure, "Danger Adventure" ( **1/2

In the tradition of easy-listening Stereolab or Tahiti 80, this four-song collection of futuristic lounge music makes for hip, lulling background listening in your space age bachelor pad. There's nothing particularly dangerous or adventurous about it, but it's cool nonetheless.