Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ex Norwegian - Tekstet (Subtitled)

The Miami-based Ex Norwegian shakes things up a bit on Tekstet (Subtitled), its third album in as many years, and eighth overall. The male-female vocal dynamic of singer-guitarist Roger Houdaille and singer Michelle Grand is mostly absent and some tracks have deliberately off-kilter arrangements. Still, Grand makes the most of her three songs and Houdaille layers his distinctive vocals within catchy arrangements that adroitly tap into power pop and various shades of 1960s rock.

“Any Old Time,” with its galloping bass and cartoon voices that drift in and out, is one of Houdaille’s more appealing adventures on this effort. “F’Nostalgia” starts slowly before evolving into a delirious swirl of keyboards, and “Whose Motion” also conjures psychedelic elements. “Gemmas” has a driving beat and an infectious melody that evokes Let’s Active and The dB’s.

Grand sings lead on Tekset’s most energetic tracks, including the bass guitar propelled and defiant “Fearless.” She helps give “June Flakes” a buoyant, 1960s girl group sound that recalls the departed and still missed band The Like, and is also impressive with the catchy retro pop of “O Simone.” It would be nice to find Grand and Houdaille singing as a team again on the next (2018?) release, but in the meantime, Tekset is an eccentric but consistently enjoyable effort.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Saturday Slumgullion

This past Wednesday, I felt like fate was sticking its tongue out at me when I walked from the Metra Ogilvie Station to the end of Navy Pier to check out The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism show and discovered it wasn’t open. There’s a new, somewhat haphazard schedule in place, so be sure you check the website before heading out for your Stones fix.

Slumgullion was delayed this week due to my hanging out at the Elbo Room last night for the first WNUR Power Pop Shoppe Showcase. Even though I was only able to stay for two of the three acts scheduled, it’s still safe to declare the event a major success. The Power Pop Shoppe is a weekly radio program on the Evanston-based FM station, and I’m hoping DJ Gil stages more live showcases in the future.

Last night’s opening band, Sunshine Boys, is destined to rise as a major force from the Chicago music scene. Composed of lead vocalist-guitarist Dag Juhlin (The Slugs, Poi Dog Pondering); drummer Freda Love Smith (Blake Babies, Antenna); and bassist-backup vocalist Jacqueline Schimmel (Big Hello), the trio made an immediate impact with hard-hitting, socially relevant and melodic songs. When Juhlin noted that Sunshine Boys had immediate plans to record a single, I couldn’t help wishing it would be an entire album.

It was also a treat to see The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club live after having enjoyed their studio recordings for some time now. The band’s latest effort, Don’t Buy This Record is available for a free download on its BandCamp page. I wasn’t able to stay for The Phil Angotti Band, but it’s inconceivable Angotti and friends would have put on a bad show. Angotti has a brand new solo album out titled Such Stories.

Phil Angotti will be a guest on Richard Milne’s Local Anesthetic program this Sunday night on WXRT.

Tickets are now on sale for Brian Wilson Presents Pet Sounds: The Final Performances at the Rosemont Theatre on October 6. Wilson will be joined by Beach Boys members Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin. Other upcoming shows include The Kooks at The Vic on October 11; Rhett Miller at City Winery on July 9, and the FitzGerald’s American Music Festival, which runs from June 30 to July 3 at the Berwyn club.

Great Moments In Vinyl, a collection of local musicians that performs memorable albums at the Martyrs’ club on Lincoln Avenue, will delve into R.E.M.’s Document and grammatically incorrect Lifes Rich Pageant next Wednesday, October 24.

Local musician John Moulten has been added to the lineup for Cover Palooza!, an evening of Chicago area bands that usually perform originals but will switch to cover versions for one magical evening on June 3 at the Gallery Cabaret. Van Go, 92, Red Wigglers, Deadly Bungalows, and Right Tidy’s are the other acts involved.

Nowhere Else Festival, a celebration of art music, film, and farming  takes place Saturday and Sunday, May 27 and 28, about 45 miles east of Cincinnati, Ohio. Over The Rhine, a beloved alt rock/roots band that often performs in Chicago, are among the bands performing, along with Band of Sweethearts, Birds Of Chicago, Carrie Rodriguez, Carrie Newcomer, and Red Dirt Boys. A screening of the film Doctor Strange will be hosted by its director Scott Derrickson.

The Unswept, a Chicago-based band led by cousins who grew up in England, has a jangling new single titled “You Ain’t On My Mind” available for $1 on its Bandcamp page. The group has logged a number of shows at International Pop Overthrow - Chicago.

In related news, International Pop Overthrow - Liverpool runs through next Tuesday, May 23 at the Cavern Club, with many bands yet to perform.

There’s a 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. celebration on Chicago’s Riverwalk today. According to a Chicago Sun-Times piece by Miriam DiNunzio, the event will feature “walking tours, live music, a life-size fish puppet parade [and] fishing demonstrations.” I’ve never heard of a life-size fish puppet parade, and it’s hard to imagine how well it could be seen from even a few feet away.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Shoppe Til You Pop

Photo from The Bishop's Daredevil Stunt Club Facebook page.

The Power Pop Shoppe has chosen three worthy acts for its showcase tomorrow night at The Elbo Room on Lincoln Avenue. A weekly program on WNUR 89.3 FM, The Power Pop Shoppe is hosted by DJ Gil, whose mission is to present a global selection of melodic rock that includes a healthy dose of Chicago area talent. That approach will no doubt transfer well to the stage, with performances by The Phil Angotti Band, The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club, and Sunshine Boys.

Phil Angotti is a veteran of the Chicago club scene, and was also one of the performers (with his band The Idea) at the very first International Pop Overthrow in Los Angeles. He’s known for doing tribute shows to The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, The Bee Gees, The Zombies, etc., and he’s an accomplished singer-songwriter as well. He’ll most likely be showcasing songs from his new acoustic album Such Stories at The Elbo Room.

The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club adroitly combines catchy arrangements with offbeat subject matter, and the brand new Don’t Buy This Record finds the quintet at the top of its game. As I noted in a review posted on Broken Hearted Toy earlier, Don’t Buy This Record follows in the tradition of fellow Midwestern acts Wilco and The Webstirs, but also explores 1980s style synth rock. The adventurous vocal interplay of guitarist Bill Giricz, bassist Dan Passarelli, and guitarist Paulette Bertrand is another highlight.

The name Sunshine Boys might not be familiar to even long-time followers of the Chicago music scene, but the three musicians in this new trio have built solid reputations with previous acts. Freda Love Smith was a founding member of Blake Babies; Jacqueline Schimmel played with Big Hello; and Dag Juhlin formed The Slugs and is a member of Poi Dog Pondering. A clip of a song called “Only A Million Miles” on the Sunshine Boys Facebook page suggests they favor a guitar-driven, energetic approach.


Friday, May 12, 2017


Depending on what time you’re reading this, you might still have time to catch singer-guitarist Phil Angotti performing songs from his latest album Such Stories tonight at a CD release show at the G Man Tavern on Clark Street. The event is being hosted by CAUDog Records and Avenue N Guitars, and Angotti will be joined by Rachel Drew and Tommi Zender, with special guests Joe George and Tony Richards.

If you miss Angotti’s show at tonight, you can catch him next Friday, May 19 at The Elbo Room on Lincoln Avenue, along with power pop marvels The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club and Sunshine Boys. They’re part of the WNUR Power Pop Shoppe showcase.

Tickets went on sale today for Over The Rhine at SPACE in Evanston on August 26 and 27, and Paul Weller at House Of Blues on October 9.

There will be a Renegade Craft Fair Pop-up tomorrow and Sunday on Halsted, between 18th St. and Canalport.

My superstar chef nephew Joe Flamm and his Spiaggia co-worker Tony Mantuano will be part of Craft And Cuisine event at The Park At Wrigley tomorrow afternoon. Other participants include Stephanie Izard of Girl And The Goat fame; Matthias Merges from Yusho; Paul Kahan from Big Star; Chris Teixeira and Samantha Turner from West Town Bakery. There will be over 40 beer and wine tastings.

John San Juan, who is a founding member of The Hushdrops and just released a solo album, will be opening for Ian Hunter at Park West tomorrow night.

The recently reunited Baltimore-based power pop band Splitsville will headline a four-act showcase tomorrow night at the LiveWire Lounge on Milwaukee Avenue. Chicago bands Hyperplane, Collectors, and The Handcuffs are also on the bill.

Tickets are now on sale that amazing August 11 triple bill of Dwight Twilley, Pezband, and Shoes at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, a guy who’s so smart he got to host Cosmos and do cameos on The Big Bang Theory, will be at the Chicago Theatre this coming Tuesday night to talk about his book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.

Writer Steve Johnson had an interesting feature story in yesterday’s edition of the Chicago Tribune about the American Writers Museum, which officially opens at 180 N. Michigan Avenue this Tuesday. Johnson notes, “the museum manages to feel ambitious, far-reaching and wise in its appreciation of writers and writing.”

Texas Guitar Shows is bringing what’s being billed as the Midwest’s Largest Guitar Show to the Odeum Expo Center in Villa Park next Saturday and Sunday. Adult admission is $20; children 11 and under can attend for free if accompanied by an adult.

Micky Dolenz will be performing at City Winery Chicago on June 13 and 14.

There’s a triple bill of Roxy Swain, Toy Robots, and Cheryl Lynn Tomblin coming up on June 16 at Wire in Berwyn. Material Reissue and Cliff Johnson with The Raine will be performing at that same venue on June 24.

There’s still time to check out the Omaze fundraising site for a chance to have breakfast in London with seven of the actors who have portrayed the lead character in the legendary Doctor Who British sci-fi series. Donations start at $10 and can be done via Paypal or credit card. The campaign is part of the annual Red Nose Day to help save children from poverty around the world, and involves Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Peter Davison, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, and Colin Baker. Donations must be received by May 31; the winner will be announced around June 9.

Omaze, has also partnered with Ringo Starr and The David Lynch Foundation for a charity event involving his birthday on July 7. The Beatles’ drummer and other VIP guests will be gathering in Los Angeles for brunch, and fans have an opportunity to join in the fun. Donations start at $10 and can be done via Paypal or credit card.

There are two weeks left to see the critically acclaimed production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Hollies - Shake With The Hollies

Shake With The Hollies was a 2017 Record Store Day release only in the UK, but Facebook sites like Allan Clarke Appreciation Society and Hollies Appreciation Facebook Area (both are closed groups) brought it to the attention of people around the world. I bought one on eBay for a reasonable price, and there may still be copies available via that route. Like a lot of Record Store Day limited-edition vinyl, it offers alternative versions and/or previously unreleased material.

As noted on the LP’s back cover, the five 1963 tracks were captured by “an enthusiastic fan who placed a microphone in front of the radio speaker!” The sound quality drifts in and out on a 1965 recording of “Just One Look” from Shindig, but otherwise the dated technology on Shake With The Hollies shouldn’t keep avid Hollies fans from enjoying these unearthed treasures. Particularly the rousing renditions of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Reelin’ And Rockin’,” which have never been released before.

The opening track “I Can’t Let Go” was recorded in 1966 and features Eric Haydock grabbing the spotlight with some spirited bass playing. There’s also an early version of “Don’t Even Think About Changin’” from that same radio session. The song would later appear on The Hollies’ first of three consecutive masterpieces, For Certain Because. (Evolution and Butterfly were the other two.) All 16 songs exude a raw, fun energy, and the brief interviews with Graham Nash, Allan Clarke, and Tony Hicks add to allure of Shake With The Hollies.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions

Whiteout Conditions, the seventh full-length album from The New Pornographers, and the first on their own Collected Works label, is likely to expand their devoted following. A.C. Newman and Neko Case have done well as solo artists, but there’s a certain magic in the way these eight Vancouver-based musicians create impossibly catchy and eccentric music. Having five members who can sing results in terrific harmonies and adventurous vocal arrangements.

As in the past, The New Pornographers’ lyrics have a logic all their own. The haunting “We’ve Been Here Before” and “Second Sleep,” as well as the pulsating “Avalanche Alley” could have sprung from the pages of a fantasy novel. “High Ticket Attractions,” which bears a resemblance to The Dandy Warhols’ “Bohemian Like You,” sports numerous quick and clever rhymes that reference everything from the Magna Carta to the ancient Mayans.

The lilting yet ominous “This Is The World Of The Theatre” mixes guitars and keyboards, while the title track and the futuristic “Clockwise” explore a more aggressive 1980s alternative rock. The tribal beat and male-female vocal dynamic on “Darling Shade” evokes The B-52’s at their best. “Play Money,” which uses an infectious arrangement and biting lyrics to lampoon a cash-hungry music industry, might explain why The New Pornographers have decided to go their own way.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Music News and Other Events

Tickets are now on sale for the Nowhere Else Festival being staged May 27 and 28 about 45 miles east of Cincinnati, Ohio. Billed as Two Full Days Of Music, Art, Earth, Sky, Nowhere Else will have a painting workshop/demonstration, a nonfiction writing workshop, readings, a lecture on regenerative farming, live music, and a screening of Doctor Strange hosted by its director Scott Derrickson. Scheduled acts include Over The Rhine, who perform in Chicago on a semi-regular basis, Band of Sweethearts, and Red Dirt Boys.

One of the first bands I interviewed for the Illinois Entertainer back in the late 1980s was Social Act. Lead singer-bassist Ellis Clark had already built a following as a member of Epicycle, and would go on to work with The Handcuffs and other acts, along with pursuing a solo career. So it’s great to see that he’s bringing Social Act back again. According to a recent post on Clark’s Facebook page, the band recently shot a video at a church in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Another Chicago music scene veteran, Mimi Betinis, recently posted on Facebook that we could see the release of a 1972 recording from the original lineup of Pezband some time this summer.

John San Juan, who is a founding member of The Hushdrops and just released a solo album, will be opening for Ian Hunter at Park West this Saturday, May 13.

Local H, the Chicago-based duo of vocalist-guitarist Scott Lucas and drummer Ryan Harding, has a gig this Friday night at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine. Opening act Stoop Goodnoise kicks off the evening at 9:00 p.m.

My superstar chef nephew Joe Flamm and his Spiaggia co-worker Tony Mantuano will be part of Craft And Cuisine event at The Park At Wrigley this Saturday. Other participants include Stephanie Izard of Girl And The Goat fame; Matthias Merges from Yusho; Paul Kahan from Big Star; Chris Teixeira and Samantha Turner from West Town Bakery. There will be over 40 beer and wine tastings.

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