Friday, March 30, 2012

Slumgullion #107

Poster art from The Wanton Looks Facebook page.

Rock Art Show, a company that sells art and photography of and by famous musicians, is offering a fine art lithograph of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover to commemorate a special anniversary. It was 45 years ago today when The Beatles dropped by London’s Chelsea Manor Photographic Studios to pose for Michael Cooper. The resulting photograph was featured on designer Peter Blakes iconic album cover for Sgt. Pepper. Rock Art Show’s lithograph, which was officially licensed by Apple Corps in 1993, includes replicated signatures of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The price is $125, with free shipping.

The Chicago Acoustic Underground is presenting a showcase tonight at The Hidden Shamrock on Chicago’s north side. The lineup includes Ellis Clark, a member of The Handcuffs as well as a solo artist; singer-guitarist Christine Kent; and Henry Arth of the post jam trio, Parafeat. The show starts at 7:30, donations will be taken at the door. The Hidden Shamrock is located at 2723 N. Halsted.

Ellis Clark will be onstage with Brad Elvis and Chloe F. Orwell, the Rob & Laura Petrie of Chicago indie rock, when The Handcuffs headline a Glam/Punk/Pop Extravaganda at the Kryptonite club in Rockford on April 7th. They’ll be joined by The Wanton Looks, a hard hitting four-woman band, and the rockabilly outfit Jonny Bones & The Femurs. Note: The Handcuffs’ Flesh Hungry Dog Show with The Joans, originally scheduled for April 6th, at Jackhammer, has been moved to May 4th.

In the meantime, The Wanton Looks will have a release party for their self-titled, first CD tomorrow night at Schubas. Admission is $8, the show starts at 10:00 PM. Schubas is located at 3159 North Southport.

The Neverly Brothers will be bringing their fun celebration of rock and roll history to the Metropolis Performing Art Center in Arlington Heights this Sunday.

Whitewolfsonicprincess, the indie rock band formed by James Moeller and Carla Hayden of Black Forest Theatre, will be selling limited editions of its latest CD, 10 + 1, at a release party this Sunday, April 1st at the Red Line Tap. There’s no admission price, and the event runs from 4 - 6 PM.

Abbey Road Studios in London recently celebrated 80 years of recording some of England’s best performers with a series of talks given by Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan, authors of the book, Recording The Beatles. For £75, visitors were given a rare opportunity to step inside Studio Two for a presentation that included a look at equipment and archive photos, as well as a discussion of recordings by The Beatles, Edward Elgar, Peter Sellers, Pink Floyd, The Hollies, and The Zombies. The initial shows rapidly sold out, so four more dates were added. Hopefully, this will be just the sort of thing Abbey Road Studios continues to do in the future.

Artist Georgina Flood is now selling some real cool looking Beatles t shirts and limited edition mugs via her website.

Congratulations to Ralph Covert and G. Riley Mills, whose musical, A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas, has been nominated for the 2012 Distinguished Play Award from the American Alliance for Theatre & Education (AATE). The winners will be announced in June.

The Chicago History Museum’s Chicago Rocks! Lecture and Concert Series presents The Honorable Story of ‘The Indie City’ next Thursday, April 5th at Smart Bar. Musician Phil Rockrohr’s lecture on the city’s indie scene starts at 6:30, followed by a concert featuring Dag Juhlin from The Slugs, Poi Dog Pondering, and 500 other bands; Josh Caterer from Smoking Popes; Chris Connelly from Revolting Cocks and Ministry; Jon Langford, co-host of WXRT’s Eclectic Company, and member of The Mekons; Jeff Lescher of Green; Scott Lucas of Local H; and Rick Rizzo of 11th Dream Day and Candy Golde. Smart Bar is located at 3730 North Clark Street.

WXRT radio personality Johnny Mars, a longtime listeners’ favorite, will be premiering a brand new show this Sunday morning. The station isn’t saying much about the program, other than it follows directly after Terri Hemmert’s Breakfast With The Beatles, but loyal XRT fans will definitely want to check it out.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

CD Review: The Redwalls - Self-Titled

Note: This review originally ran in the Illinois Entertainer in November, 2007.

After scaring their fans with the slow-moving EP, The Wall To Wall Sessions, earlier this year, The Redwalls now have a bona fide successor to their 2004 breakout, De Nova. The energetic self-titled CD finds the Chicago band pursuing more ambitious songwriting. As on their previous full-length efforts, De Nova and Universal Blues, there’s an emphasis on strong melodies and harmony vocals.

The catchy “Put Us Down” and “Don’t You Wanna Come Out” exhibit a power pop expertise while “Summer Romance” is a Celtic flavored love song. “Hangman” features Justin Baren’s house-shaking bass playing, and a sinister mood that’s explored further with “Into The Maelstrom,” a sort of pop take on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” The hard-edged sci-fi fantasy of “They Are Among Us” and the lush, Hollies style ballad “You Cant Forget Yourself” add even more dimension to a CD that should put The Redwalls back in limelight again.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

CD Review: White Rabbits - Fort Nightly

Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer in July, 2007.

White Rabbits hail from New York, but their ability to evoke old time British music hall days aligns them with U.K. acts like Supergrass and Madness. The sextet also infuses the catchy rock songs on their debut, Fort Nightly with elements of big band jazz and Latin rhythms. Drummers Matt “The Duck” Clark and Jamie Levinson drive nearly every track, but it’s the singing of lead vocalist/guitarist Greg Roberts and lead vocalist/keyboards player Steve Patterson that will probably garner the most attention for White Rabbits.

Roberts and Patterson, along with guitarist/back-up vocalist Alex Edge bring even the quirkiest lyrics to life with their elaborate three-part harmonies. Patterson’s inventive playing consistently adds an exotic flavor, whether it’s on the mid-tempo “Dinner Party” or the rollicking opener, “Kid On My Shoulders.” “While We Go Dancing” is another energetic highlight, and the tribal beat of “I Used To Complain But Now I Don’t” extends the White Rabbits’ party music repertoire.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CD Review: I’m From Barcelona - Let Me Introduce My Friends

Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer in April, 2007.

Having 29 members and a CD brimming with peppy songs makes I’m From Barcelona seem more like a commune than a rock band. Led by singer-guitarist Emanuel Lundgren and named for a catch phrase on the Fawlty Towers TV show, this co-ed congregation actually hails from Sweden. Let Me Introduce My Friends exudes a childlike innocence up until “The Saddest Lullabye,” a slow-moving finale based on an adult recalling childhood traumas.

The catchy “Rec & Play” shows I’m From Barcelona at their most inventive, as Lundgren slips into hip hop singing while a massive choir supplies backup vocals. “Collection Of Stamps,” one of those rare pop songs that celebrates the joys of philately, bounces along with an arrangement that sounds like a sitcom theme, while “We’re From Barcelona” has a swinging ‘60s feel. At times, I’m From Barcelona comes across a little too cute, like when Lundgren chirps, “It’s a you and me house.” Then again, who could begrudge a band whose multiple members sound like they’re all holding hands and dancing while they sing?

Monday, March 26, 2012

CD Review: Saturday Looks Good To Me - All Your Summer Songs

Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer back in 2003. My review of the band's 2004 release, Every Night, also ran in I.E. and was posted to Broken Hearted Toy.

If there isn’t already a sub-genre called slacker-nostalgia, the Detroit-based Saturday Looks Good To Me has surely invented it. Brought together by singer-songwriter Fred Thomas (His Name Is Alive, Flashpapr), these musicians mimic the 1960s Motown artists and girl groups who recorded 45 records like the ones shown on the cover of All Your Summer Songs. At times, the CD’s ironic detachment and studio gimmickry can be distracting, but for the most part, Thomas and company offer a lot of fun music.

After opening with an untitled snippet of horns and keyboards, SLGTM segues effortlessly into the romantic soul of “Meet Me By The Water.” Much of All Your Summer Songs deals with relationships coming to an end. The slow-moving title track and “The Sun Doesn’t Want To Shine” get bogged down, but the acoustic “Last Hour” and highly melodic “Ultimate Stars” are definite keepers. “Alcohol” could have been a hit single for Leslie Gore, while the sad and beautiful, “No Good With Secrets,” is reminiscent of Beck. On the power pop tune, “You Work All Weekend,” Thomas offers some less than comforting advice on how to cope after a breakup: “But whether you get over them or not/They’re still going out without you.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Slumgullion #106

Squeeze photo from the band's official website.

Case & Collins Tour Loses Nerve. If you were planning on hearing some songs by The Nerves at the Empty Bottle this Sunday night, don’t look for Paul Collins to be there. Peter Case & Paul Collins, who formed the power pop trio back in the 1970s (guitarist Jack Lee was the third member), were in the midst of a 2012 reunion tour when something went wrong. A recent press release from Case, who was also a founding member of The Plimsouls, states Collins’s abrupt departure was due to “the usual musical differences.” Collins is no stranger to Chicago, so hopefully he’ll be back soon, performing songs from his days with The Nerves, The Beat, and his 2010 solo CD, King Of Power Pop.

Second Disc News. The Second Disc online newsletter recently broke the news about a Cheap Trick 14-CD boxed set cube called The Complete Epic Albums Collection that’s now available from Sony’s PopMarket for $99.99.

A few days later, The Second Disc heralded a collection of 10 rare George Harrison demos titled Early Takes Volume 1. Its May 1st release on Hip-o Records coincides with the American debut of Martin Scorsese’s Harrison documentary Living In The Material World on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Now Don’t That Make You Feel A Whole Lot Better? Tickets went on sale today for The Summer Dance Party, a double bill of Squeeze and The B-52’s on July 6th at Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island. Assuming the weather cooperates, this could be one of the more fun events of the season. The B-52’s were impressive running through their festive repertoire last year at Ravinia, with an extended performance of “Planet Claire” that alone was worth the price of admission.

The current line-up of Squeeze includes songwriting partners/founding members, Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford. In 2010, the band re-recorded some of its best material, such as “Tempted,” “Hourglass,” and “Cool For Cats” for a new CD titled Spot The Difference. It would be great to hear those songs live, with Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline as a backdrop. In other Squeeze-related news, the band is set to release a limited edition, white vinyl, 2 LP set called Squeeze: Live At The Fillmore. For $25, fans will also get a Live At The Fillmore download card, a Spot The Difference poster and a Squeeze sticker.

Caffeine Withdrawal. For the past few years, Jeff Kelley has been creating the weekly Internet comedy show, Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff. Initially, his M.O. was establishing a theme based on public domain footage he found on YouTube, along with his own monologues and animation. As time went on, he recruited contributors like his wife Dawn, and son Mark; my wife Pam and me; and rock and roll road warrior Willy Deal. Kelley phased out the found footage, replacing it with original bits like What’s My Crime? and It’s Not Fred, and running gags like being transported to a spaceship, or being visited by his future self. He also incorporated free downloads from indie rock bands.

But he still wasn’t satisfied, so after this week’s installment, Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff will cease to exist. Kelley will be taking some time off to contemplate a new Internet show with a different name and format. I look forward to meeting with him and Willy Deal for a few idea-generating sessions.

Blood & Roses In Beverly. Usually, when The Smithereens come to Chicago, it’s at a north side location like the Park West club or a neighborhood festival. But next month, they’ll be on the opposite end of town, for an April 27th concert at the Beverly Arts Center. Hopefully, they won’t be shy about playing songs from their latest CD, the impressive Smithereens 2011. Tickets are $39, $35 for Beverly Arts Center members. The Smithereens were recently inducted into the Star-Ledger New Jersey Rock & Pop Hall Of Fame.

Blood & Guts At The Portage Theater. Chicago-based independent filmmaker Stuart R. Wahlin will present the premiere of his new horror film, Hand Of Glory at the Portage Theater in Chicago this Sunday (March 25th) at 4:15 PM. It’s part of the Indie Horror Film Festival that started today and runs through 10:00 PM Sunday night.

The Fool On The Film. Regulars at the Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre back in the 1990s will surely remember Drew Richardson, the comic performer who bills himself as a Dramatic Fool. Richardson lives in Pittsburgh these days, and is looking for volunteers from around the world to take part in a project he’s doing for the Quest Visual Theatre in Maryland. Pictographic Play Project is going to be part of QuestFest 2012 and involves people filming their interpretation of a symbol-based script Richardson created. It looks like fun but I can’t even begin to explain it. Anyone interested can get the details at a blog he’s created.

The Whole World’s Acting. World Theatre Day is coming to the Chicago Cultural Center, located downtown, on Tuesday, March 27th. Sponsored by The League Of Chicago Theatres, this free event will include panel discussions, presentations, and special guests. The event starts at 4:00 PM.

Walk Like You’re In England. The Bangles are scheduled to perform at this year’s Rewind The 80s Festival in Henley-On-Thames England on Saturday, August 18th. Some of the other acts lined up for the weekend bash include Kool & The Gang, Lightning Seeds, OMD, Wang Chung, Midge Ure of Ultravox, Grandmaster Flash, Marc Almond of Soft Cell, Roland Gift of Fine Young Cannibals, and Jimmy Somervill of Bronski Beat. There will also be a Scottish version of Rewind The 80s Festival in Scone Palace, Perth, on the weekend of July 20th-22nd, featuring many of the same acts, though not The Bangles.

Just a quick note to the Rewind The 80s Festival organizers: Pay for my airfare and hotel accommodations, along with free admission, and I’ll be happy to cover your little shindig on Broken Hearted Toy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

45 RPM Memories: Fingerprintz - “The Beat Escape”

Before moving on to “The Beat Escape,” here are a few things taking place in Chicago tonight.

Factory Theater’s launch party for the return of White Trash Wedding And A Funeral is being held at Chief O’Neill’s Pub (no relation to Jimme) from 6:00 to 10:00 PM. It’s free to get in, but for a $5 admission fee, patrons can compete to be named Miss White Trash. The winner gets to wear a tiara and sash for a ‘glamour shot’ that will remain on display at the box office for the duration of the play. Factory Theater is celebrating its 20th season.

Also tonight, the politically charged band, Vortis, which includes veteran rock critic and Sound Opinions co-host Jim DeRogatis on drums, is performing at Ultra Lounge, along with trash band, The Funs, and the one-woman art performance of Lam! Lam! Admission ranges from $6 to $8, show time is 9:00 PM.

From 1979 through 1981, Fingerprintz embodied the motto, If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again. Led by the talented and seemingly macabre lead vocalist Jimme O’Neill, the UK band went punk on its debut, The Very Dab; moved on to a more catchy pop approach for Distinguishing Marks; and aimed for dance clubs with Beat Noir. Musically, Fingerprintz succeeded at each genre they tried, but in terms of commercial appeal, they flopped. O’Neill, along with guitarist Cha Burnz, would find a bit more success with The Silencers, but for the most part, he remains one of rock’s unsung anti-heroes.

For years, Fingerprintz was one of those unfortunate acts (like Chicago’s punk pioneers, Bohemia) whose songs never made it on to a CD. But in researching this piece, I found that it’s now possible to download Fingerprintz songs from their Last.FM page. I highly recommend checking that out.

“The Beat Escape” was taken from the 1981 album, Beat Noir, which found Fingerprintz lead vocalist-songwriter Jimme O’Neill setting his disturbing imagery to irresistible synth beats. This song is a relatively harmless invitation to party, with an exotic arrangement and cryptic lyrics. O”Neill begins with a “crazy enfant” with a “nomad heart” whose gyrations resemble a whirling dervish. The action takes on global proportions, with lyrics like, “Mad dance/crazy round the world/Crazy boys and girls.” There are also references to naked city civil servants and an approaching carnival, but that’s pretty much typical Fingerprintz fare. Perhaps most importantly, “The Beat Escape” is an energetic and catchy song, augmented by horns.

The non-album B-Side, “Disorient Express,” is an instrumental, except for some ominous mumbling about midway through. It’s dark and melodic, and a worthy addition to the Fingerprintz oeuvre.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CD Review: 12 Rods - Separation Anxieties

Note: This review originally appeared in the November, 2000 edition of the Illinois Entertainer.

12 Rods, a Minneapolis-based quartet, manages to sound both brash and sophisticated on its latest effort. Produced by Todd Rundgren, an acknowledged authority on classy pop music, Separation Anxieties proves lead vocalist-guitarist Ryan Olcott is equally at home composing high energy rock or blue-eyed soul. He gets seamless support on harmony vocals from his brother, a guitarist-keyboards player who’s known simply as Ev, and bass player William Shaw IV. (Drummer Christopher McGuire was replaced by David King after the album was recorded.)

“Kaboom,” a catchy look at sexual frustration, mixes guitars and percussion while showcasing Olcott’s knack for clever lyrics. What Has Happened?” balances several funny scenarios with an extended instrumental passage that allows the musicians to show off their chops, while “Marionette” switches from a nursery rhyme to an energetic pop arrangement. “Radioaction” is a slow, soulful track with spacey keyboards and layered vocals, and 12 Rods experiment even further with trip-hop romance of “Your Secret's Safe With Me.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Concert Review: Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs

I’m still waiting for the third volume in the Sid & Susie Under The Covers series created by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs. The rumor is that the duo will be covering hit songs from the 1980s this time out. Which would make sense since Volume One and Volume Two covered the 60s and 70s, respectively. In the meantime, here’s a Sid & Susie concert review I did for the online Illinois Entertainer a few years back.

Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs dropped by The Old Town School Of Folk Music for a pair of gigs last Saturday night in support of the two Under The Covers CDs they’ve recorded as Sid & Susie. It’s a side project that features their renditions of vintage hit songs and cult classics. Even though Volume 1 was released in 2006, the duo is only now going out on tour. That might have been due to conflicting schedules since Sweet released his latest solo effort, Sunshine Lies just about a year ago and keeps busy as a producer, while Hoffs tours with The Bangles and just started recording a new CD with them. The seven o’clock show was only the third time Sweet and Hoffs have performed as Sid & Susie in concert, and while there were some false starts and forgotten lyrics, they nevertheless charmed the audience.

Working with Illinois-based guitarist Paul Chastain, Sweet and Hoffs served up an off-the-cuff, entirely acoustic show that at times seemed to slip into an episode of VH1’s Behind The Music. At the start of the show, Sweet had told audience members to feel free to ask questions, and the invitation was embraced a little too enthusiastically. But even if the extensive conversations caused a few songs to be dropped, they also resulted in some interesting anecdotes and humorous responses. When a woman claimed that Chastain had once been in her basement, Sweet quickly asked, ”How’d he get out?”

In a way, the unplugged approach answered critics who have described the songs on the Covers CDs as being too faithful to the originals. Hoffs handled most of the lead vocals as she and Sweet concentrated on the 1970s songs from Under The Covers Vol 2, opening with “I’ve Seen All Good People: Your Move/All Good People” by Yes. She also sang Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and Little Feat’s “Willin’.” Sweet, joking that he was more used to big, electric guitars that cover everything up, sang lead on Mott The Hoople’s “All The Young Dudes” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Second Hand News.” Throughout the performance, Sweet and Hoffs combined for some impressive harmonies. They tapped into the 1960s for Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” and “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” from Under The Covers Vol. 1.

The only non-cover material came during the second encore, with Sweet singing lead on “Byrdgirl,” from Sunshine Lies. Overall, the Old Town School Of Folk Music concert went so well, it raised the question as to whether Sweet and Hoffs should have gone acoustic on the CDs as well.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Vintage Publication Spotlight - The Music Gig

As the front cover suggests (Led Zeppelin, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Fleetwood Mac, and Tom Petty) this Volume 3 Number 9 edition of The Music Gig is from the 1970s. May, 1977 to be exact. It’s the only issue in my archives, and I have no recollection of whether I bought this magazine on a regular basis. The price was 85 cents. The Music Gig was published in New York by Editor in Chief Sam Chase, with Jean-Charles Costa serving as Editor. The format mimics Rolling Stone, with black & white printed pages except for an occasional dash of color. The back cover ad for Camel Filters is the only page in full color.

Chris Salewicz’s interview with Jimmy Page is augmented by some distinctive illustrations by Charles Jackson Pate. Page reflects on rehearsals for a post Presence tour, the Led Zeppelin flick, The Song Remains The Same, and his confidence in the future of his band. Elsewhere, writer Steve Weitzman drops in on a Crosby, Stills & Nash recording session, and wonders if their first LP in years will put them back in the limelight. Susin Shapiro meets Tom Petty around the time of his debut release with The Heartbreakers and asks if that grin on the LP's front cover means he’s cynical. Teri Morris delves into the history of Fleetwood Mac and its tradition of incorporating new members into the group. There are also articles on Genesis and Peter Gabriel after the split, Thin Lizzy, Steve Hillage, Natalie Cole, and Leo Sayer.

The albums section includes an extended review of Bad Company’s Burnin’ Sky; Pink Floyd’s Animals; and a combined review of David Bowie’s Low and Iggy Pop’s The Idiot. Jim Green’s Singles column offers his takes on The Kinks’ “Sleepwalker” (spunky); KC & The Sunshine Band’s “I’m You’re Boogie Man,” (less than memorable); and The Eagles’ “Hotel California” (an unusual choice for a single). He was particularly impressed with The Nerves’ “Hanging On The Telephone,” declaring, “these kicky guys from SF are among the best exponents of the early English invasion sound since the real thing. Searchers, Hollies, Zombies - - even a dash of Rick Nelson!”

The Hollywood Hotline gossip page dishes on Keith Moon’s aborted wedding (he felt he was too young at 29); Todd Rundgren’s elaborate, 60-city tour; James Taylor working with producer Peter Asher on his first effort for Columbia; and an upcoming album from The Moody Blues. Most of the ads in the May, 1977 issue of The Music Gig were for albums, including new efforts from Tavares; Isaac Hayes & Dionne Warwick; Climax Blues Band; Weather Report; Andrew Gold; and The Amazing Rhythm Aces. In the charts, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac was the top album, and “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates was the Number One single.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Slumgullion #105

A Bebe Le Strange era portrait of the Wilson sisters from a 1980 tour book.

Happy birthday to Heart’s Nancy Wilson. For over four decades, she’s been a guitarslinger, rock & roll fantasy, role model, soundtrack composer, and the best sis Ann could ever ask for. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Heart perform live several times, the most recent being at Lilith Fair in 2010. And so, here’s a toast to Nancy Wilson.

“Penn, You’re Funny. Penn Jillette is the only reason my wife Pam watches this season’s Celebrity Apprentice. Even if he doesn’t win, Penn can always fall back on his career as a magician/comedian. He and longtime co-conspirator Teller will be performing at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino Hammond on June 8th. Tickets, which range from $30 to $130, are now on sale.

Singer-guitarist Joe Pug has made a name for himself with heartfelt, acoustic-based songs. His next CD, The Great Despiser, is due out April 24th. Gordon Patriarca, a veteran of the Chicago music scene, (and fellow staff writer of mine at Metro Calendar back in an earlier century) recently posted a promo video on Facebook in which he can be seen playing bass during one of Pug’s recording session. Gordon is the bald-headed gentleman with his back to the camera.

Seattle’s self-described pop/soul combo, Red Jacket Mine, has recorded a new 7 inch single on Fin Records that reflects our troubled times. 500 hand-numbered copies of “Listen Up (If The World Is Going To Hell) will be available on colored vinyl, and also online. It’s a catchy number with a hint of Squeeze, but I can’t say I like the over-the-top video Red Jacket Mine filmed for it. Then again, humor is always subjective. Incidentally, my old old comedy group, Famous In The Future, used the exact same panda mask in a short play called Grace & The Bear, we did by cast member, Frank Carr. The 45’s flipside, “Rosy Days” successfully taps into a vintage Motown groove.

Garage/glam rockers The Ex-Girlfriends also tap into current events on their new video, “Blowback (I Am Your SuperPAC).” The clip, a funny take on Bob Dylan’s promo clip for “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” was recently picked by England’s NME for its website, and also surfaced on as the Daily Funny. The Ex-Girlfriends (who are actually four guys) recently released their debut effort, Boo Hoo Hoo, which includes a cover of “The Witch” by The Sonics.

Crosby, Stills, & Nash will be bringing their celebrated three-part harmonies to Ravinia on August 3rd.

Coed indie rock band, Magatha Trysty, is currently recording its full-length debut, Another Lovely Party, at Kingsize Studios in Chicago. Michael Hagler will be producing it. One of the tracks, “Saturday Dress,” has already been released as a demo. Magatha Trysty will once again take part in International Pop Overthrow - Chicago, with a show at Red Line Tap on April 27th.

When The Empty Bottle in Chicago holds a Garage Sale, it’s not an opportunity to pick up cheap kicknacks and used clothing. It’s a celebration of garage rock that kicks off on Monday, March 19th, with a triple bill of K-Holes, Bare Wires, and Bezoar and runs through March 27th. Former members of The Nerves, Peter Case and Paul Collins, will be performing with Summer Twins and Sleepovers on March 25th. Should be a fun evening of classic garage rock and power pop songs Case and Collins created together in The Nerves, and apart, with other bands like The Plimsouls and The Beat.

George Harrison’s sister, Louise, has put together a traveling charitable event that features Liverpool Legends, the Beatles tribute band she helped form in 2006. The idea behind Help Keep Music Alive is to raise funds to help schools, from middle on through college, continue to offer music lessons. The show, which is done free of charge to the schools, will also present a history of The Beatles, utilizing Liverpool Legends, as well as student musicians. (The band provides music charts specifically written for the students.) There was a concert at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas yesterday, and there’s a show today at the Greenbrier High School. Administrators interested in bringing Help Keep Music Alive to their schools can call 417-893-0464

Bangles singer-guitarist Vicki Peterson and former Cowsills singer-guitarist Susan Cowsill have met the Kickstarter funding goal for their debut CD as Psycho Sisters. The duo has already begun recoding tracks.

This year’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo at McCormick Place continues to expand its impressive and eclectic lineup, with recent additions including author Anne Rice, John Barrowman from Doctor Who and Torchwood, Maggie Q from Nikita, Chris Hardwicke from the Nerdist website, Chicago’s acclaimed chef Stephanie Izard, and musician Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine. The event takes place on the weekend of April 13-15th. Tickets can be purchased online or through various retail outlets.

Nicholas Sistler, an artist who has gained an avid following in recent years, will have a show of his work at Firecat Projects at 2124 N. Damen from April 27th through May 19th. Sistler was kind enough to discuss his provocative work, and the gallery scene in general, for an article I did for Chicago Art Magazine a while ago.

And finally, a wish for everyone to have a safe and fun St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll be catching some of the festivities here in Palatine. Incidentally, English musician Mordecai Smyth was quite touched to learn that he had been unofficially named a Palatine resident in last week’s Slumgullion.

“My dear Mr. Flamm!” he wrote in a Facebook message. “I am honoured - a Palatine resident, no less. Wishing you and all fellow Palatines a groovy weekend.” Here’s a video of Mordecai Smyth’s “Sinister Cyclist." It’s more appropriate for Halloween than St. Patrick’s Day, but then everything he does is suitable for Halloween.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

CD Review: Dot Allison - We Are Science

Press photo from the Unofficial Dot Allison website.

Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer in 2002.

Dot Allison is a space age one-woman band, creating layers of music via keyboards, guitars, and glockenspiel. Her dreamy vocals are significant since the bubbly synthesizer grooves on her latest release, We Are Science, have been around since Depeche Mode and Soft Cell in the 1980s. While she may not be an innovator, Dot Allison is certainly an intriguing performer.

“We’re Only Science,” a predominantly instrumental dance track, finds her chanting the title over a primitive beat and closing with the ominous line, “Look into my eyes for the last time.” The percolating synthesizers and drums of “Substance” conjure a futuristic universe, while Allison’s breathless vocals on “You Can Be Replaced” are couched in a more straightforward ballad format.

The hard-hitting “Strung Out (David Fridmann single mix)” and the sparse, acoustic track “Wishing Stone” are daring experiments that keep We Are Science from becoming repetitive. The irresistible melody and slightly sinister lyrics of “Make It Happen” prove Dot Allison’s talents extend beyond the dance floor.

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