Friday, February 19, 2010

Slumgullion #3

Hoodoo Gurus photo from the band's Facebook page.

Another assortment of items for a Friday.

The Hoodoo Gurus, the crazed Aussies who have been mixing power pop with deliriously fun lyrics for over two decades, just announced on their Facebook page that their new sixteen-song CD, Purity Of Essence, will be out in a few weeks. Front man Dave Faulkner describes Purity Of Essence as “one hour of exciting new Hoodoo Gurus music” and goes on to mention a six-part “mockumentary” called Must Travel On Wheels that will be available starting next week from the Australian Internet provider Bigpond. U.S. fans will soon be able to buy the webisodes on iTunes. A Must Travel On Wheels trailer can be viewed on YouTube. Hmmm, with The Hoodoo Gurus and The Bangles both coming out with new CDs this year, maybe there’s a chance the two bands will tour as a power pop double bill, like they did back in the 1980s.

Braam is a veteran Chicago-based indie rock band that features 12 guys with the last name of Braam among its members. Well, three guys, anyway. The group has just released a very nicely done video for “Burlington Northern,” a melodic tune with ringing guitars that will be included on Braam’s soon to be released fifth CD, Living Room. The video can be seen on YouTube.

The Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo is coming to McCormick Place in Chicago on the weekend of April 16th -18. The multi-media event, also known as C2E2, bills itself as a showcase of comics, movies, television, toys, anime, manga, and video games. There will be autograph sessions, sneak previews of upcoming movies and TV shows; hundreds of exhibitors; and famous as well as new artists on hand. Kids five and under can get in free on Friday and Saturday, and kids under 12 can get in free on Sunday.

Today is Cliff Johnson’s birthday, and the power pop vocalist, best known for his work with the Chicago band Off Broadway, is looking forward to tomorrow. In fact, “Look To Tomorrow” is one of the catchy tunes on his new Little Crimes CD, which recently became available for digital download on The actual CD will be released in a few weeks. The songs, co-written with musician Jim Timbers, sport infectious melodies and chiming guitars, while Johnson sings in that classic rock and roll voice that evokes Lennon, Bowie, and the newer Elvis. The long-awaited solo debut follows on the heels of Johnson’s last performance with Off Broadway, at Fitzgerald’s in December, 2009.

As we welcome Little Crimes, it’s worth reflecting on all of the fun Johnson gave us in the past, via recordings and live performances. The first time I saw him was in the seventies, at a suburban rock club, back when he was with Pezband. I was immediately struck by the power of his vocals. Johnson soon left to form Off Broadway, whose live shows became must-see events on the Chicago club scene. He frequently wandered from the stage, either to get beers for his bandmates or to engage in some sort of tomfoolery with the crowd. For a while, his thing was splashing cologne on audience members. Once, at a show at the Mother’s club on Division Street, a fan grabbed the bottle of cologne and took a drink. Johnson looked shocked, but only for a moment. He grabbed the bottle back and pretended to chug it.

By the time Off Broadway released On in 1979, Chicago fans were primed to snap it up. Songs like “Bully Bully,” “Hang On For Love,” “Stay In Time,” and “Full Moon Turn Your Head Around” remain classics of the power pop genre to this day. Quick Turns, released a year later, wasn’t as overwhelming, but still had some great material. Unfortunately, Off Broadway never achieved the national success it deserved, although the band continued to perform on a regular basis up to 2009. Hopefully, Cliff Johnson will be touring in support of Little Crimes, and his live shows will include a few Off Broadway gems.

Happy birthday, Cliff, and keep rocking!

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