Friday, October 2, 2015


I've mentioned a few times here that Squeeze fans must be pretty happy these days, with the new Cradle To The Grave album due out soon and a tour that brings them to Chicago directly after Thanksgiving. Fans of The Zombies are probably also counting their lucky stars. The British Invasion band releases its Still Got That Hunger album of new material next Friday, and will be performing at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Indiana a week later.

Admission is free for the fifth annual Record Dig featuring new and vintage CDs and vinyl taking place tomorrow afternoon at Schubas Tavern on Chicago's north side. The vendors include Reckless Records, Dusty Grooves, Beverly Records, HoZac Records, Rob Gillis, and Matt Sohn. Food and beverages will also be available. 

Pat DiNizio's 60th Birthday Bash at the Italian American Hall in Scotch Plains, NJ won't be a lonely place without Suzanne Vega. That's because the singer-songwriter, who recorded a duet with DiNizio on the song "In A Lonely Place" for The Smithereens' Especially For You album, has just been announced as one of the performers. Other musicians taking part in the October 10 event include The Smithereens, Marshall Crenshaw, Garland Jeffreys, Southside Johnny, The Grip Weeds, and members of The Hooters. DiNizio will also perform with his Beatles tribute band The Scotchplainsmen. The event is also a fundraiser to help pay medical expenses for DiNizio's upcoming surgery on his arm and hand.

Bluegrass musician/media personality Ken Mottet will be playing the Dick Clark role tomorrow night at Beatniks on Conkey in Hammond, Indiana when Rosie and The Rivets Present: Vintage Rock N Roll Theater Show. The event starts at 8:00 PM at and is being described as an American Bandstand type of variety show.

Mooner has a release party for its new Masterpiece album next Friday night at The Hideout. I've posted favorable reviews of this Chicago band's efforts in the past and judging from a quick scan of the songs on its website, this one sounds like a winner too. It was interesting to hear Lee Ketch from Mooner sharing his thoughts on songwriting and the Chicago music scene with Richard Milne last Sunday night on the WXRT's Local Anesthetic program. Mama, Indonesian Junk, and Bobby Conn and Monica Boubou are also on the bill at The Hideout.

The night will belong to Patti Smith on October 11 when she visits the Lund Auditorium at Dominican University in River Forest to discuss her upcoming book M Train. The event, sponsored by The Book Table store in Oak Park, is sold out.

The Hollies have updated their official website (possibly in response to my A Hollies Summer In Chicago campaign but most likely not) to make it more modern and easier to navigate. It's definitely an improvement, but there's still some work to do. There's a listing for 2015 Red Badges on the Merchandise page, with no info on what those might be. Hopefully, that will fill in soon. Here are few suggestions that would make The Hollies website even better: t-shirts that actually have eye-catching graphics; action figures for every Hollies member throughout the band's 50-year career; an invitation to all past and current members to set aside their feuds and come together for a massive Hollies reunion; and several US dates on the tour page.

The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival is sponsoring a showing of Blazing Saddles next Wednesday night at the Star Cinema Grill in Arlington Heights. In other BWiFF news, there's a teaser on its Facebook page saying to mark November 14 on your calendars for a major upcoming event.

It's Johnny's birthday, it's Johnny's birthday. WXRT air personality Terri Hemmert will be celebrating John Lennon's 75th birthday from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM this Sunday morning on her Breakfast With The Beatles program. Beatles fans outside the Chicago area can stream WXRT on the station's website.

And next Friday, Phil Angotti and Tommi Zender will present the John Lennon 75th Birthday Retrospective Show at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Casey McDonough, Joe Camarillo, and Alton Smith will be joining them for the show, which will also include special guests Steven Charles Levitt and Christie Miller. Angotti did a similar show at The Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago in August and his selection of Beatles and Lennon solo music was inspiring.

Alt rock band whitewolfsonicprincess will offer a mix of brand new and rarely performed songs when it opens for South Africa's HA!Man (Francis le Roux) with Joke Debaere next Thursday, October 8 at Uncommon Ground's Devon location.

There are still a few weeks left to check out the work of Pattie Boyd, Henry Diltz, and Carinthia West at the Visions Of A Magic Time - Iconic Photos of the 60s and 70s exhibit. It runs through October 30 at the Hilton / Asmus Foto gallery on Wells Street in Chicago.

The Hypocrites will be staging their scaled-down and critically acclaimed version of Green Day's Broadway smash American Idiot through October 25 at The Den Theatre on Milwaukee Avenue. Tickets range from $28 to $36.

There's good news for those of us who have missed Z Berg since The Like inexplicably disintegrated in 2010. The Popdose website site recently reported that Berg is now part of a new band with Alex Greenwald, Jason Boesel, and Michael called Phases. Berg has swapped the 1960s vibe of The Like for a more 1980s techno-oriented approach, but the music is still catchy. Their first single is the optimistic "I'm In Love With My Life."

Mary-Arrchie Theatre kicks has entered its 30th and final season with a production of the Peter Morris two-performer play Guardians. It’s a hard-edged look at war-time atrocities.  

In addition to the previously mentioned Zombies concert, other shows coming up at Star Plaza Theatre include Buddy Guy on November 14; Salute to the 60s, with Herman's Hermits, The Buckinghams, and The Grassroots on January 30, and the Beatles tribute band The Fab Four on February 12.

On March 13, 2014, I praised the Last Call album by the Chicago-based trio JIP for making good on its mission to forge a hard-hitting collection of songs that evoke alternative rock bands from the 1990s. Now a review by Melanie Lewis in the October issue of the Illinois Entertainer reveals that JIP has a new deluxe edition of Last Call featuring the original track list plus each song covered by a different artist. It comes with a seven-inch "Our City By The Lake" single on yellow vinyl and is available for $15 on the Pledge Music site. 10% of all money raised will go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

More heavenly pop hits on the way. October 23 is the U.S. release date for Silver Bullets, the first new album from New Zealand band The Chills in at least 10 years.

North By North has a gig on October 15 at the CMJ Music Marathon Show in Brooklyn. The Chicago techno trio's "Pistoletta"/"Dark Star" single is available for download on its Bandcamp page.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Halloween Song: Motobunny - "My Boyfriend Is A Ghost"

They ain't afraid of no ghost. Photo from the Motobunny Facebook page.

Back in October of 2009, I devoted the entire month to rock and roll Halloween songs. You can check out all 31 of them in the BHT archives, and I've added an occasional new one in the years since then. Here's the first spooky song of 2015. 

Motobunnya new band comprised of members from the veteran garage rock acts The Woolly Bandits and The Love Me Nots, released its rollicking self-titled debut last May. For the most part, Motobunny comes from the Ike and Tina Turner "We never, ever do anything nice and easy" school of rock, but the eerie "My Boyfriend Is A Ghost" gets off to a slow, ominous start. Vocalists Christa Collins and Nicole Laurenne seductively spin the tale of a woman whose deceased lover is still looking for some nocturnal action. 

"I know he's under the bed even with my eyes closed tight," the woman explains, and later adds, "My hair is standing on end." The ghost also likes to look in her window, whisper sweet nothings, and stroll across the roof. As the song continues, bassist-vocalist Rik Collins, guitarist Michael Johnny Walker, and drummer Jay Lien provide a steady, hard-hitting beat, and Laurenne adds some haunting, B-52s style keyboards. Although some definitely creepy things are going in this after-life libido situation, "My Boyfriend Is A Ghost," along with Motobunny's "Apocalypse Twist" and "Spider And Fly" qualifies as a Halloween party song. 

For my full review of Motobunny's album, see May 27, 2015 in the archives.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Squeeze - Cradle To The Grave

To use a song title from Cradle To The Grave, these are indeed "Happy Times" for Squeeze fans. The band has several dates coming up in the UK and America (November 27 and 28 at Park West in Chicago) and will release this first album of new material in 17 years come mid-November. The album title suits these well-crafted songs, as founding members and critically acclaimed songwriters Chris Difford and GlennTilbrook craft bittersweet reflections on growing up, discovering sex, finding work, and growing older. The clever lyrics, indelible melodies, and harmony vocals are all classic Squeeze.

Anyone who bought the Arse About Face demos EP Squeeze was selling during its 2012 tour should be interested to know that three of those tracks have made it onto Cradle To The Grave, albeit in altered versions. Now that "Tommy," a tale of a racist getting his comeuppance has been transformed into "Sunny," a nostalgic study of becoming a musician, the lilting string accompaniment is fitting instead of ironic. The ska/new wave gem "Top Of The Form" and mean-spirited "Honeytrap" have been recast in more polished arrangements, although it might have been better to leave some of those rough edges intact.

Still, there's a lot here to delight those who have long appreciated Difford and Tilbrook's amazing ability to turn slice-of-life accounts into irresistible pop music. "Haywire" describes a British household where the Dad mixes drinks and his son sneaks in porn magazines, while "Only 15" finds a lad reluctantly losing his virginity at a friend's party. "Nirvana" offers the flip side of Fastball's "The Way" by showing an empty nest couple sinking further and further into a mundane existence inside their home. "Happy Days," which celebrates a summer vacation, and the defiant title track are augmented by spirited singing from a number of guest vocalists. "Snap, Crackle And Pop" ends this introspective album with a positive observation about a lifetime of creating music: "Staying with me to this day/There's nothing that I would change." 


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Catching Up

Photo from the Rosie And The Rivets Present: Vintage Rock N Roll Theater Show Facebook page.

Thanks to everyone who dropped by my Rock And Roll Memorabilia Yard Sale this past Saturday. I had a chance to meet a few music-related Facebook friends in person, and engage in conversations about the history of Chicago rock and the local club scene. As for the sale, people mostly went for the vinyl and books, leaving me with a surplus of very cool magazines from over the past few decades. Maybe I'll try a pop-up store in Block 37 downtown the next time.

In a similar vein, Schubas Tavern will be hosting its fifth annual Record Dig this Saturday, starting at noon. Vendors selling new and vintage CDs and vinyl will include Reckless Records, Dusty Grooves, Beverly Records, HoZac Records, Rob Gillis, and Matt Sohn. Food and beverages will also be available.

Ken Mottet, who was a funny and informative Master of Ceremonies for the recent Minstrel Palooza at Durty Nellie's, has another hosting gig coming up this Saturday at Rosie And The Rivets Present: Vintage Rock N Roll Theater Show. It starts at 8:00 PM at Beatniks on Conkey in Hammond, IN, and is described as an American Bandstand type of variety show.

The night will belong to Patti Smith on October 11 when she visits the Lund Auditorium at Dominican University in River Forest to discuss her upcoming book M Train. The event, sponsored by The Book Table store in Oak Park, is sold out.

Garbage in, Garbage rocks. Garbage, led by vocalist Shirley Manson, will be at the Riviera Theatre on October 17 to celebrate their debut album with a 20 Years Queer show.  Torres is the opening act.

Although it still hasn't caught on nearly as much as Record Store Day, the third annual Cassette Store Day takes place on October 17 in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and America. The event is geared more toward the indie rock crowd, with releases coming from acts like Green Day, The Blank Tapes, and Poster Children. There are also some various artists collections on the list. In Chicago, Bric-a-Brac Records, at 3156 W. Diversey, will be participating. 

The Chicago-based indie rock band The Handcuffs will have a special Cassette Store Day release called All The Way From Chicago that will include 10 songs carefully chosen from their three CDs, plus a cover of Mott The Hoople's "All The Way From Memphis." The cassette will feature cover art by Swiss artist Mark Staff Brandl, as well as a Handcuffs baseball card.

Alt rock band whitewolfsonicprincess will offer a mix of brand new and rarely performed songs when it opens for South Africa's HA!Man (Francis le Roux) with Joke Debaere on October 8 at Uncommon Ground's Devon location.


Monday, September 28, 2015

All The Wine - Heavy Lights

Heavy Lights, the second EP from All The Wine, carries on the hard-edged approach the Chicago-based indie rock trio started on its 2014 release Summer Parade. Lead singer-guitarist Danny Cozzi again creates lyrics that capture the anguish of disintegrating relationships and delivers them via emotionally charged vocals. There’s also a hint of 1980s alt rock in the way Cozzi, drummer Matt Scott, and bassist Danny Stankus craft their revved-up arrangements.

At times, it’s hard to tell if Cozzi intends his arresting imagery to be symbolic or taken literally. The acoustic-based ballad “Older Now” (an effective change of pace from the energetic other three tracks) begins with a guy sitting in an empty parking lot in the small hours of the morning, watching his city burn down. Then he gets a call from an ex-girlfriend at a party who’s hinting that she wants to get back together. On “Steady Ground,” one friend tries to convince the other that they should jump off the “edge of the world” together. Whether this is a suicide pact or a call to embark on a more adventurous career than the typical nine-to-five world is unclear, but the second friend chooses “stability” instead.

“Time And Direction” concerns a relationship scuttled by infidelity; leading the couple to try “reviving something that we lost somewhere out there.” Like the title track, it mostly rocks hard but goes through some intriguing tempo changes as well. Danny Cozzi will be performing stripped-down versions of All The Wine songs at 11:00 PM this Thursday night at The Elbo Room in Chicago.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Minstrel Memories And Tomorrow's Sale

Photo of Cliff Johnson and a member of The Raine from from the Minstrel Palooza Facebook page.

Congratulations to the organizers of last Sunday's Minstrel Palooza Live! 2015 at Durty Nellie's in Palatine. The event, which celebrated the Minstrel Music store in Niles, drew a good-sized crowd throughout the bulk of its nine hours, and the bands followed almost immediately after one another. Ken Mottet, a musician/media personality whose Showmen's Rest CD was reviewed here this past June 8, proved to be an engaging MC. He shared anecdotes and quips like he was doing a radio show.

All of the acts went over well, but the strongest performances came from The Gus Adonis Experience; Van Go, and Cracked Actor. Still, the highlight was undoubtably Cliff Johnson's guest appearance with The Raine. I had never heard of The Raine, but apparently they started in the 1980s. It quickly became clear they'd be a perfect match for Johnson. If anyone has any info on this band, I'd be happy to share it here on the blog.

After a glowing introduction from The Raine's singer-guitarist, Johnson strolled out onstage and started belting out "Stay In Time" from Off Broadway's stellar debut On. He was also impressive on "Showdown" and "Bully Bully," and did his famous medley of hits during "Hang On For Love." This was the third multi-act event I've seen at Durty Nellie's, and I'd to see the venue to more of them.

As posted earlier this week on Broken Hearted Toy, I'm having a Rock And Roll Memorabilia Yard Sale tomorrow from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. There will close to 400 items for sale; including albums and 45s, cassettes, CDs, magazines, books, trading cards, posters, buttons, and all sorts of cool things I've collected over the years. Everything will be priced at $1 or under, so come on by for a fun trip down memory lane. My address is 35 East Slade, in Palatine, IL.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

The New Trocaderos - Thrills And Chills

The recent release of Thrills And Chills signals the evolution of a side project into its own entity. Formed by Brad Marino and Geoff Palmer from The Connection, and Kurt Baker of The Kurt Baker Band in 2013, The New Trocaderos specialize in fast-paced songs mix punk with 1960s Top 40. That formula is in full swing on this full-length debut, which also features new additions keyboards player-harmony vocalist Kris “Fingers” Rodgers and drummer Rick Orcutt. Adding to the fun, Kim Shattuck from The Muffs; Line Cecilie Dahlmann from The Dahlmanns; and Palmyra Delran, who performed with The Friggs before embarking on her current solo career, add backup vocals on some of the tracks. 

The songs were written by, or written with the album’s co-producer Michael Chaney (Dean Baltulonis is the other producer) and mostly deal with hard drinking and troubled romances. “What The Hell Did I Do” adds Beatles style “bop do wop” singing to an energetic tale of a guy trying to piece together what happened on the previous night. When Marino boasts “I got the swagger” on “I'm So Bad,” the band uncorks a “Honky Tonk Woman”-inspired arrangement to back him up. 

Guest musicians Nick Mainella and Chris Klaxton add horns to the energetic and foreboding tale “Hey Big Boy,” which also benefits from Rodger’s freewheeling piano playing. In contrast to the hard-edged “Love And Hate” and “Oh Boy (Today Is My Birthday),” the jangling pop of “Crazy Little Fool” evokes The Hollies. “Like An Angel,” a charming song well-suited for weddings, has a gorgeous vocal arrangement and “Love Anymore” adds yet another dimension as The New Trocaderos do some finger-snapping street corner harmonizing.

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