October 4, 2002
BY JIM DEROGATIS POP
Continuing the Local Band Roundup: more D.I.Y. release by Chicago-area
bands. Zelienople, "Pajama Avenue" (Loose Thread, www.loosethread.com)
***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" (www.kissnride.com)
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" (www.analogradio.com) **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; www.jdavistrio.com) ***
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" (www.steepwater.com) **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, www.knifeofsimpson.com) ***
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;
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" (www.lightfmrockband.com) ***
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" (www.shelleymiller.net) **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" (www.thetuffetts.com) **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)" (www.allnaturalhiphop.com) ***
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" (www.dangeradventure.net) **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.