This column is once again
long overdue for a trip through the always-overflowing stacks of D.I.Y.
releases by local bands. So let's dive right in and sample some of the best,
Bang! Bang! calls itself "Chicago's sex-rock three-piece," and the
band members flirt with a vengeance from behind their skinny ties and
skillfully torn fishnets. Yes, there's some New Wave revivalism going on
here, a la New York's Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but with more fractured, disjointed
rhythms in the manner of Devo. The seven songs on the band's debut EP, "Do
You Like It?" are fun, catchy and brimming with nervous energy, and the
group delivers the goods live. It will perform at Metro, 3730 N. Clark, at
8:30 p.m. on June 8. (www.bangbangband.com)
From "sex rock" to something more wholesome -- Illinois First! is
a "history rock band" devoted to "setting the history and geography of the
Prairie State to a dynamic rock 'n' roll soundtrack." Its other motto:
"Illinois: It's not as boring as you'd think!" I can't decide whether the
group's 9-song D.I.Y. album "Songs About the Land of Lincoln" is a spoof or
a localized version of the historical ditties from "Schoolhouse Rock." With
songs ranging from "Marquette and Joliet" ("Marquette and Joliet, French
explorers/They mapped out Illinois!") to "George Ryan," it's probably both.
The well-recorded four-song demo by the Its! (hey, the third band
in a row with an exclamation point in its name!) makes it clear that
guitarist/vocalist Maciej (a Polish immigrant who uses his first name only)
has spent quite a bit of time listening to the Strokes. But I like that
droning New York garage-rock sound quite a bit, so it doesn't bother me when
the quartet rips it off, especially when Maciej's hooks are nearly as strong
as those of Julian Casablancas. (www.theits.com)
Gurnee resident Johnny NeRo is a one-man band who records as Nerve
Exhibit. He's released several tracks on industrial/goth compilations,
and he's just issued a five-song EP called "The Horror of Amusement." He
clearly worships at the throne of Skinny Puppy, but his electronic drone is
well-crafted as bedroom darkwave goes. It's a shame Wax Trax isn't around
anymore to sign him. (www.nerve-exhibit.com)
Formed a few years back at Eastern Illinois University, the
progressive-rock quartet Spread has just released an impressively
well-made, lushly psychedelic album called "The Transition." With serious
chops and considerable ambition, these lads fit in nicely with the
prog-meets-emo surge of bands like Coheed & Cambria and the Mars Volta. The
band will perform at the Wise Fools Pub, 2270 N. Lincoln, at 8 p.m.
Please Please Wait, the alias of programming wizard Charlie
Williams and guitarist-vocalist Namky Lim, calls the four songs on its
"Used" EP "sci-fi soul" and asks us to imagine Radiohead covering Al Green.
That's a neat idea, but the pair's uplifting synth-pop is actually much
closer to the Pet Shop Boys. They will perform at the Bottom Lounge, 3206 N.
Wilton, at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. (www.pleasepleasewait.com)
Relocated to Chicago from Michigan City, the Effect is a tight,
hard-rocking quartet that plays dynamic, straightforward indie rock on its
second impressive self-titled EP. If the group is as confident and
uncompromising live as it is on record, it's definitely a band to watch. The
Effect will perform at Java Jim's, 426 Pine Lake, LaPorte, Ind., at 8 p.m.
on May 28. (theeffectmusic.net)
Abstract Mindstate, the hip-hop duo of Ice-Gre and Hellcat, have a
long track record in the city's underground rap scene, and its members have
an impressive pedigree: Ice-Gre worked as Kanye West's personal assistant,
and West repays a debt by producing "Welcome 2 Chicago," a Windy City anthem
that's one of the best tracks on "Still Paying," the crew's second album.
This is inventive, ultra-melodic, genre-hopping hip-hop with a strong,
politically conscious message, and it deserves to win a much wider audience.
There's another cool Chicago anthem on "Find the Time," a splendid
five-song EP by the chamber pop sextet Canasta, as well as a killer
cover of "The Model" by Kraftwerk, emphasizing the key hook with violin
instead of synthesizer. (The band also makes liberal use of piano and
trombone.) Canasta will perform at Subterranean, 2011 W. North, at 9 p.m. on
May 31. (www.canastamusic.com)
Singer-songwriter Jamie Holesha's "3 Dollar Demo" (so named
because that's what she sells it for at shows) features three tunes powerful
enough that they make others in this genre sound like emotional
lightweights. Holesha attacks her 12-string with punk ferocity and veritably
howls her vocals; think of a one-woman, riot grrrl version of the Inidgo
The speed-metal quartet Rival has been kicking around the Chicago
metal underground since 1990, but it finally signed to Metal Blade for its
long-in-the-making second album, "State of Mind." The disc mixes
bassist-vocalist's John Johnson's soaring, old-school vocals with Gary
Olson's stampeding drums and a searing two-guitar attack that never skimps
on the melody. The song title "Extreme Aggression" pretty much says it all.
We get more truth in advertising via the tune "Alcohol and Rock 'n' Roll"
from the 12-song demo by Twin Wrecks the Memory. Led by art-school
vets Dan Sullivan and Ryan Paveza, the group plays loud, boozy, extremely
grungy garage-rock with an arty twist, somewhere between the Stooges and
Sonic Youth. Again, if they're as good live as they are on record, you may
be scooping your brain off the floor at the end of their set.
Guitarist-vocalist Jamie Jacobs and the boys in Sour Deluxe
continue to pursue their Brit pop meets Midwestern power-pop sound on yet
another winning indie release, the "White Noise" EP. These five tunes find
the group growing past its Garbage fixation and delivering its strongest set
of tunes yet (in a just world, "Butterfly Collection" would be a major hit).
Reaching back to the hardcore heyday of the early '80s, Regress
plays scorchingly angry, ultra-political, punishingly fast (one song clocks
in at eight seconds) punk rock the way Black Flag or the Dead Kennedys used
to. "Look Who's Pulling the Strings" is a furious eight-song EP that's
impossible to ignore. We need a lot more punk like this, and much less Good
Vintage '60s girl-group pop meets nasty modern garage-rock on "Sick
Times," the six-song debut EP by the Dials. The quartet is led by
guitarist-vocalist Rebecca Crawford and bassist-vocalist Patti Gran, but my
vote for MVP goes to Farfisa organ player Emily Dennison. The band will
perform at the Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton, on Tuesday. (www.thedials.us)
Local bands can send music and press materials to Jim DeRogatis, Chicago
Sun-Times, 401 N. Wabash, Chicago IL 60611.