Bringin' it on home

April 20, 2007


What's happening on Chicago's local band scene:

When the Chicago quartet Bang! Bang! first made its mark on the local music scene four years ago, performing in the clubs and releasing a pair of D.I.Y. EPs and the 2006 album "Decked Out," the musicians described their sound as "sex rock." That seemed as good a handle as any for the sassy, campy mix of punk snarl, infectious glam-rock melodies and New Wave humor and dance-ability.

Now, the group is back with a reworked lineup -- new drummer Nick Kraska and keyboardist Rachel Shindelman join mainstays Jackie Flash on guitar and vocals and Gretta Fine on bass and vocals -- and a new album that's even stronger and more sultry than the earlier discs, "The Dirt That Makes You Drown" (Morphius Records). Among the high points are "Prefab Nation," which evokes Devo, the B-52's and the Sweet while still sounding utterly fresh and new, and "She Came from Outer Space," a gloriously goofy homage to B-grade science fiction movies.

Bang! Bang! celebrated its new disc with a record release show at the Beat Kitchen last week, but keep an eye on its Web site ( for upcoming gigs, since the band is even better (and sexier) onstage.

Continuing this column's periodic survey of the most worthy contenders from the always-overflowing mail bin of local releases, we have the naughtily titled "The Panties Your Mother Laid Out for You" (Reverse Orange Records), the first full album from Egnaro (that's orange spelled backward). "AC/DC, Guns n' Roses and Motley Crue all had sex with each other and have given birth to a five-headed demon love seed," the quintet boasts. At its best, though, the group limits the hair-metal influence to some, er, eye-catching cover art and unapologetically bad-boy lyrics -- heavy on the talk of snakeskin boots and deals with the devil -- while emphasizing the pounding, rhythmic economy of AC/DC or Motorhead in the music, nicely straddling the line between punk and metal just as those groups did. Visit the band on the Web at

Long pegged as one of the most promising talents and most likely prospects to break out of the often-overlooked local hip-hop scene, freestyle rapper Juice is reintroducing himself to fans in the new guise of leader of Juice and the Machine, fronting a kicking six-piece jazz/funk/soul band in the mold of the Roots and celebrating the release of a new CD and DVD, "Live from the Party" ( The group performs tonight at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, topping a bill that starts at 9 p.m. with the Drastics and Akasha. (The cover is $12; for more information, call 773-489-3160.)

Inspired by some of the strongest female voices of the New Wave era, Liz Berg aspires to make sexy pop-rock that is also smart, gutsy and meaningful: She describes her new album "Coattails" as "social commentary on the tests of morality and forgiveness that paralyze government, religious institutions and relationships." She's at her best on the opening track, "God Says," which ranks beside other great musings on the Almighty such as Cursive's "Happy Hollow" and XTC's "Dear God." Check out, or better yet, catch her performance at the Red Line Tap, 7006 N. Glenwood, tomorrow night at 9. The cover is $5, and other performers include Sleeping Sergio and Across State Lines. Call (773) 274-5463.

The three brothers in Braam -- singer Tom, guitarist Scott and bassist Mike Braam -- have always been ambitious home-recording artists, crafting two earlier albums of gorgeous alternative-country in their Oak Park studio. But the trio takes things to another level with the absurdly ambitious double CD "Kings I & Kings II" ( As in the past, you can hear tasteful echoes of the Byrds' "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" (gotta love those sibling harmonies) and, in the rougher guitar-rockers, Neil Young with Crazy Horse, though the lyrics of these wistful tales of love and longing are one of the prime attractions.

The influence of early '90s shoegazer bands such as Lush, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive looms large through the 12 tracks on "Devastator" ( lovelyrebelrecords), the debut album by the local trio Star. But if the sound isn't original, the band certainly does it proud, finding the perfect mix of swirling noise and floating, ethereal melodies, with Shannon Roberts' breathy vocals a real highlight. The group's next local performance is at the Underground Lounge, 952 W Newport, on June 2.

Staying on the swirling psychedelic tip, the quartet Dark Fog has released a thoroughly impressive new album called "The Ultimate Cult of Psychedelic Psychosis" (, complete with a limited vinyl pressing in addition to the usual CDs. I was hooked from the first brooding, hypnotic, fuzz-drenched notes, and reports from their recent showcase at South by Southwest hold that the group is even more entrancing live. Its next performance is on May 17 at the Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, or sample the music on the Web at

Finally, we have a quartet called the Narrator, which has just released a strong collection of twisted but catchy postmodern rock called "All That to the Wall" (Flameshovel). The debt the band owes to Stephen Malkmus and Pavement is a bit too obvious at times, but its best songs promise of the Narrator finding its own voice in the future. The group's record release party takes place on May 11 at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; meanwhile, check them out on the Web at