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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Step Right Up

It's encouraging to see positive comments already showing up in response to a Facebook post I did earlier today about the Rock And Roll Memorabilia Yard Sale I'm having this Saturday, September 26th. The hours are 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and my address is 35 E. Slade in Palatine. Everything will be marked at $1 or less. I've searched through boxes, shelves, and cabinets throughout our house and come up with several items that I'm going to sell. Some of them reluctantly, particularly at that price. But I've collected so many things, and a lot of them have been packed away for years. It was time to decide which ones I really treasure and which ones might be better appreciated by other collectors.

As far as I know, nothing at the Yard Sale will be amazingly valuable, although you never how much someone would be willing to pay for stuff on eBay, or at conventions like Fest For Beatles Fans or the CHIRP Record Fair And Other Delights. When it comes to vinyl (I'll have LPs and 45s), some aficionados are only interested in mint-condition grooves. Most of my vinyl is in pretty good shape, and the artists tend toward classic rock, new wave, 1960s, and power pop. Nothing from the current Top 40.

I'll also have cassettes, books, trading cards, magazines, and buttons. The magazines include vintage issues of Rolling Stone and Mojo, and one each from Spin, Circus, The Story Of Pop, The Face, Crawdaddy, and Creem. I have rock publications from around the country and a few from Europe. The best deals might be on the books since they all cost me quite a bit more than a dollar. Most are a rock history type of thing, but there are a few novels and biographies.

The CDs are a mix of well-known acts like U2, The Byrds, and Big Star, along with lesser-known and local acts, plus one-time only releases that came attached to a magazine.  The magazine CDs are mostly tribute compilations to a particular act or iconic album. There are also some oldies compilations. I have a few cassettes of my own, along with a bounty that was recently given to me by an acquaintance. The cassettes include Heart, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Rickie Lee Jones. 

I'm also going to have promotional items like festival programs, handbills, and mailers. I seriously considered simply giving them away to whoever wanted one, but that might raise the issue of why some things at the Yard Sale cost money and others don't. So all the paper souvenirs that I got for free will be offered for a quarter apiece. Think of it as a service charge. Even if nobody buys any, I think people will have fun checking them out since some are from decades ago. In addition to all the pop culture for sale, I might sneak a few standard garage sale things out just in case some non-rock and roll bargain hunters stop by.

By the way, if you come out to Palatine for the Rock And Roll Memorabilia Yard Sale, you might want to drop by the Craft Beer And Bacon Festival 2015 that's being held at Tap House Grill just down the street from me. In addition to food and over 100 craft beers, there is also going to be live music.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Papers

Photo from the Squeeze Facebook page.

I just received the copy of Cradle To The Grave I pre-ordered from the Squeeze website. It's the band's first official release of new material in 17 years, not counting the Arse About Face demo EP that Squeeze sold at its concerts in 2012. Cradle picks up two songs from that release; "Top Of The Form" and "Honeytrap." I'll be posting a full review in the near future, but my first impression is that this is a collection light and catchy songs with harmony vocals that capture the classic Squeeze sound. Squeeze has a pair of shows coming up on November 27 and 28 at the Park West in Chicago.

Just in time for the holiday gift-giving season. As reported in this past Thursday's Chicago Tribune and on Terri Hemmert's Breakfast With The Beatles program this morning on WXRT, there's a mind-blowing sound and vision repackaging of The Beatles' 1 album coming out in early November. The concept involves matching each chart-topping hit with a short promotional film created by The Beatles around the same time. The 27 tracks will be in new stereo and surround-sound mixes. There's a deluxe version that comes with over 200 minutes of Beatles promotional clips and a 124-page, illustrated hardcover book.

In yesterday's Saturday Slumgullion, I mentioned Chicago's upcoming Chi-Town Rising New Year's Eve festival without passing judgment on its rather smarmy name. Chicago Tribune columnist Mark Caro didn't hold back; asking on Facebook, "Can any self-respecting Chicagoan really embrace something called Chi-Town Rising?" His followers responded overwhelmingly against the name, with at least one suggesting that it was the clueless work of an out-of-state ad agency. Makes you wonder if instead of the ball dropping, the countdown to 2016 will involve a giant deep-dish pizza.

The work of three of rock and roll's best photographers, Pattie Boyd, Henry Diltz, and Carinthia West, will be featured in the Visions Of A Magic Time - Iconic Photos of the 60s and 70s exhibit that recently opened at the Hilton / Asmus Foto gallery on Wells Street in Chicago. It runs through October 30th.

As I mentioned on Facebook a while back, I'm going to have a Rock and Roll Memorabilia Yard Sale next Saturday, September 26 from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Everything will be priced as $1 or under, and that includes CDs, 45s, LPs, cassettes, buttons, books, trading cards, greeting cards, magazines, and numerous other rock-related items. My address is 35 E. Slade in Palatine (about a five-minute walk from Durty Nellie's) so come on by to say hello and maybe pick up a few fun items. I'll do another post in a few days with more details on what I'll have for sale.

And don't forget, Minstrel Palooza is going on right now in Palatine at Durty Nellie's. See yesterday's Saturday Slumgullion for more info on that event.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday Slumgullion

EXPO CHGO, The International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, continues through tomorrow at Navy Pier. The $20 admission price is more than you'll pay at the outdoor art events like Old Town and Gold Coast, but I was at EXPO CHGO for a couple hours today and it offers a lot of imaginative and thought-provoking pieces in a massive hall.

Cool for cats. The third annual Chicago Internet Cat Video Festival is happening today at the Athenaeum Theatre on Chicago's north side. Offering 75 minutes of carefully selected clips of feline hijinx, the event benefits for Chicago Cat Rescue and Tree House Humane Society. One showing was at 4:30 PM, but you might still have time to catch the other at 8:00 PM. Admission is $15 - $20.

It's Happening again. UB40 featuring Ali Castro, Mickey Virtue, and Astro (as opposed to another version of UB40 that is also on tour) has a gig tonight at the Concord Music Hall. UB40 is probably best know for its reggae take on Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine," but was actually more impressive on songs like "If It Happens Again" and a couple of collaborations with Chrissie Hynde.
Chrissie Hynde's long-awaited autobiography Reckless: My Life As A Pretender is now available online and at bookstores, and if the press is any indication, it's as provocative and entertaining as you'd expect. I'd love to see her do some personal appearances in Chicago to promote it.

According tp Richard Channick's article in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago will soon launch a massive campaign to promote the first ever Chi-Town Rising New Year's Eve celebration. Inspired by New York's famous shindig in Times Square, the privately funded Chi-Town Rising will entice visitors to the downtown area with live entertainment, fireworks, and an illuminated star rising to the top of a building in synch with an official countdown to 2016.

The full schedule for Minstrel Palooza Live! 2015, a seven-hour party honoring the long-standing Minstrel Music store in Niles, has been posted on the event's Facebook page. Cliff Johnson, Van Go, and Mike Galassini among the 12 acts scheduled to perform. It all takes place tomorrow, September 20 at Durty Nellie's in Palatine. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Minstrel Palooza Live! 2015

Minstrel Palooza Live! 2015, a seven-hour party honoring the long-standing Minstrel Music store in Niles, takes place this Sunday, September 20 at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine. There is no admission charge for this all-ages show, which starts at 2:00 PMThe hard-hitting power pop band Van Go, and Mike Galassini, a one-time Minstrel Music owner and member the power pop bands The Valley Downs and 92 Degrees, are among the dozen acts scheduled to perform. Van Go, The Valley Downs, and 92 Degrees have performed at International Pop Overthrow - Chicago several times and have released impressive albums. Cliff Johnson, of Off Broadway, Pezband, USSA, and d'Thumbs fame, is slated to make a special guest appearance.

HitLoraine will reunite with its original late-1970s lineup, including former Minstrel Music owner, singer-guitarist Dave Sebastian. Other acts on board are The Guy Adonis Experience; Small Fortune; Cracked Actor; Since 1892; Maltece; Scott Jenson and the Beatles tribute band Blackbird; Jim Wiora; Mark Baker; and Wheels. Although these are not household names, the various musicians involved have a long history of working on the Chicago music scene and are all in some way connected to Minstrel Music. Hopefully, Minstrel Palooza Live! 2015 will spark that same sense of camaraderie that happens at the best IPO - Chicago showcases.   

For a detailed history of Minstrel Music over the years, click on the About page on the Minstrel Palooza Live! 2015 Facebook page.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

For The Record, This Is A Great Event

If I ever make it out to California for a vacation again, I hope there’s a Wild Honey Foundation event going on at the time. These people have hit upon a terrific formula of bringing cool musicans together to do cool things to help very worthy causes. In the past, Wild Honey has gathered some of alternative rock and power pop’s brightest stars to perform Beatles or Big Star albums in order to raise money for autism research and a children’s music fund. On October 8, the foundation will present a Help John Wicks Beat Cancer! show at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles.

Wicks helped found the British power pop band The Records, who had a hit with their impossibly catchy single “Starry Eyes” back in the late 1970s. They also did the very fun “Teenarama.” In more recent years, Wicks has worked with Debbi Peterson of The Bangles as a duo called Broken Sky, and recorded the magnificent power pop fantasy “That Girl Is Emily” with The Records.

Unfortunately, Wicks is now battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer by enduring extensive chemo therapy. The Facebook page for this event notes that he’s making good progress. But he’ll need a lot of help with medical bills, which is why The Bangles; Denny Laine of Wings and The Moody Blues; Al Stewart of “Year Of The Cat” fame; Peter Case from The Nerves and The Plimsouls; The Muffs; and The Kennedys are coming to his aid. The Wild Honey Orchestra and Singers, with special guests, will also be on hand. Chris Chris Carter, host of radio station KLOS’ Breakfast With The Beatles program, will serve as the host. Tickets for Help John Wicks Beat Cancer! are $40 for General Admission and there’s a VIP package for $100.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saturday Slumgullion

Eleventh Dream Day, the long-running and critically acclaimed Chicago alt-rock band, is the headliner tonight at City Made Fest in the Andersonville neighborhood. 

The Hypocrites have picked up positive reviews in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times of their scaled-down version of Green Day's American Idiot. It runs through October 25 at The Den Theatre on Milwaukee Avenue. Tickets range from $28 to $36.

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

WXRT Program Director Norm Winer will be honored with a Fifth Star Award from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs during a ceremony on Wednesday, September 16 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Winer has been guiding the progressive rock station for over 35 years. The event is free and will include performances by Sandra Delgado and Reginald Robinson; Steppenwolf Theatre; Sweet Honey In The Rock; NTO (Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra) and the WXRT All Stars featuring Kelly Hogan, Frank Orrall, JC Brooks and Jimmy Chamberlin; and The Joffrey Ballet Exelon Strobel Step-Up Dancers.

City Winery Chicago will present Behind The Lens with Photographers Henry Diltz and Pattie Boyd this coming Wednesday, September 16. This qualifies as an official event of A Hollies Summer In Chicago since Diltz did a fantastic photo shoot with The Hollies in 1966, and took the iconic cover shot for Crosby, Stills and Nash’s debut album. He also did the cover of The Doors’ Morrison Hotel, and has worked with some of rock’s biggest stars. Boyd wrote about her marriages to George Harrison and Eric Clapton in her book Wonderful Tonight, and is also a successful photographer. Tickets for the City Winery show range from $28 to $36.

The Doctor Who-themed A Fandom Tea Party is being sponsored by the Ladies Night group from 6:00 to 8:00 PM next Wednesday, September 16 at Graham Cracker Comics at 77 E. Madison. Ladies Night group of female sci-fi/ comic nerds that usually meets at the store on the first Wednesday of each month and encourages women to “bring comics you are reading or creating, swap stories and share recommendations.” A Fandom Tea Party that will feature free tea samples and baked goods.

Great Moments In Vinyl, a collection of some of Chicago's best-know musicians who perform tributes to entire albums, will cover Cheap Thrills by Big Brother And Holding Company and Janis Joplin's Pearl next Wednesday night at Martyrs' on Lincoln Avenue.

The Milwaukee-based power pop band Trolley will be showcasing songs from its upcoming release Caught In The Darkness while performing on tour with Irish alt-rockers Pugwash. That tour includes a September 17 show at 27 Live in Evanston. In a recent email, Trolley frontman Paul J. Wall described Pugwash as having an "XTC, ELO, Beach Boys and Beatles style." Pugwash’s new release, Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) came out yesterday, and the 27 Live gig will be the band's first journey to Illinois. 

I took a short break from slaving over this column to check out An Art Affair Around The Square here in Palatine. It's always a much smaller art fest than the ones in Chicago, but I did come across an interesting artist and a pair of photographers that I've haven't seen before. Fred Larucci creates a wide range of work as part of The Night Gallery, including portraits of Jimmy Stewart, Don Knotts, Madonna, Adam Ant, various monsters, and characters from Twin Peaks, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. He also does a very realistic series of coins. Dale and Gail Horn are the photographic artists/owners of the Destiny Photographic Art  company, and offer striking photographic images from around the world on metal. An Art Affair Around The Square also runs tomorrow.

The Facebook page for Minstrel Palooza Live 2015 promises that more than a dozen bands will take part in a seven-hour celebration of the Minstrel Music store next Sunday, September 20 at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine. The actual lineup of bands (starting at 2:00 PM) remains shrouded in mystery other than the recent announcement that hard-hitting/satirical power pop band Van Go is now slated to go on at 5:00 PM instead of 4:00 PM. Minstrel Music has been serving musicians for several years in Niles, Illinois.

A number of years ago, I performed in a musical satire about Barbie, staged by the Famous In The Future comedy group, written by and starring my fellow group member Desiree Burcum. My part was a Dapper Dan doll who had an unrequited obsession with the statuesque fashionista, and we had a duet that proved I don't have a ounce of musical talent. (Although I did write the lyrics to that song.) Hopefully, there will be no Dapper Dan crooning at the Carson Roberts Department Store Kenvention 2015, which takes place next Thursday through Saturday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel in Rosemont, IL. Over 30 dealers will be offering Barbie, Ken, and other dolls, along with assorted fashion accessories.  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Psychedelic Vinyl Roundup

From time to time I receive a package of promo CDs in the mail from Fruits de Mer, the UK indie label that releases psychedelic and prog rock on limited edition, colored vinyl. That defiantly retro approach is aptly summed up in the company's motto, "It's as if the last 40 years never happened." Generally, I like the compilations featuring new artists reinventing psych and garage classics the most, but FdM also offers an intrguing variety of recording artists doing their own material. Their latest batch of seven-inch records offers originals, cover versions, and rare live recordings. 

It’s a safe bet that anyone hearing Nick Nicely’s “49 Cigars” for the first time would not guess 1982 as the year this song first came out. It’s a hypnotic swirl of guitars, keyboards, and imaginative imagery that sounds like it could have sprung from the unbridled mind of Syd Barrett when he was with Pink Floyd. Nicely has an engaging, eccentric vocal style and he packs a lot into this spacey two-and-a-half minute masterpiece. It was originally the B-Side of his cult hit “Hilly Fields,” a song with more 1982-appropriate synth beats and vinyl scratching. “49 Cigars” is part of a four-song EP that includes an even more adventurous live version with extended jamming and an operatic coda; a slow and dreamy remix of “Belinda,” one of Nicely's newest songs; and “Lobster Dobbs,” a murky track from 2014 that evokes the theme song of a secret agent or detective TV show.

The FdM press material describes Vibravoid as “Quite possibly Fruits de Mer Records followers’ favourite band,” and the Dusseldorf-based trio definitely displays an acid rock/psychedelic expertise on its new three-song EP. It opens with a musclebound take on The Monkees' "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone" that features echo vocals and instrumental passages fueled by energetic guitar playing. The band enlists Italian jazz vocalist Viola Road to sing over an exotic sitar and percussion arrangement on Traffic's "Hole In My Shoe," making the experience of getting one's feet wet seem festive. The vocals on "The White Ship," originally done by Chicago's own late-1960s psychedelic rockers H.P. Lovecraft, emerge from a massive echo chamber while solemn synthesizer playing gives the proceedings a ceremonial feel.

The English band Magic Bus begins its cover of The Byrds' "Eight Miles High" in slow motion before sliding into a more swinging mix of acoustic guitar and flute playing. It comes across as very 1970s and could justifiably be labeled 'groovy.' "Seven Wonders," the other track on this two-song release, is taken from the band's latest release Transmission From Sogmore's Garden. The song goes through various tempo changes for over five minutes and showcases Magic Bus's well-crafted and ambitious vocal interplay.

Tir na nOg (the name means "land of eternal youth" in Gaelic) is a well-known Irish duo that recently released The Dark Dance, its first studio album in 40 years. "Ricochet," a track from that long-awaited effort, is an exotic blend of folk and prog rock. The second track is a previously unreleased live recording of "Tir na nOg," a song that first appeared on Tir na nOg's 1971 self-titled debut. It's a fanciful tale steeped in Celtic folklore that should resonate with fans of Steeleye Span and Airport Convention.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wilco - Star Wars

Wilco takes a casual approach on this latest album, which was made available for a free download about two months ago. Even stealing the name Star Wars seems like an offhand joke since it doesn’t have any relevance to the material, and why they used a portrait of my cat Junie on the cover is a mystery. Rather than being a blockbuster release, this 34-minute effort feels like hanging out with vocalist-guitarist Jeff Tweedy in the studio. But considering his knack for crafting infectious melodies and intriguingly cryptic imagery, that’s still an engaging experience.

“It’s a staring contest in a hall of mirrors/I sweat tears but I don’t ever cry,” Tweedy sings in a talky vocal style on “The Joke Explained.” It’s one of a series of easygoing, catchy tracks on Star Wars, along with “Cold Slope” and “King Of You.” “Magnetized” is more solemn, and builds to an orchestral arrangement, while “More . . .” evokes the 1970s with a mix of acoustic and electric guitars. “Taste The Ceiling” has that unmistakable allure of a classic Wilco song as Tweedy sets lines like, “Why do our disasters creep so slowly into view” to a melodic arrangement. “Pickled Ginger” and “Random Name Generator” are more energetic and fun, serving as the strongest moments on this welcome gift from Wilco.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Catching Up

Photo from The Hypocrites' Facebook page.

A few events coming up this week.

Belinda Carlisle, lead vocalist for The Go-Go’s as well as a successful solo artist, has a show tomorrow night at The Arcada in St. Charles. Tickets start at $39, the show starts at 7:30 PM. The local five-woman band Serendipity is the opening act.

The Romantics will be at First Merit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island in Chicago this Thursday night. They’re appearing as Rick Springfield’s special guests, along with Loverboy. On Friday, September 11, The Romantics will share a bill with Berlin and The Smithereens at the Diamond Desert Casino in Sahuarita, AZ.

The Chicago-based theatre company The Hypocrites is staging a scaled-down version of Green Day's American Idiot that's decidedly different from the Broadway hit. Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones was particularly impressed with the cast, stating their "collective performance is amped-up, pushed to the limits, driven from the heart, and like Katie Spelman's very personalized choreography, intensely committed to the whole." Jones had some qualms about the production, but rated it as "a significant achievement." The Hypocrites' production of American Idiot runs through October 25 at The Den Theatre on Milwaukee Avenue. Tickets range from $28 to $36.

He Knows What He Wants. Jules Shear, who has written hit songs for The Bangles and recorded a number of well-crafted pop tunes on his own, is employing a unique method of getting his songs out to the public. Working without label support or crowdfunding, Shear has a new tune called "The Words” that he’s making available for a free download on Soundcloud. More free songs will follow, and Shear says all he’s asking in return is that people Like his Facebook page and spread the word about this project. 

Mooner released a video today for “Alison,” a catchy, guitar-driven track that will be on its upcoming album Masterpiece. The Chicago-based band has a record release party set for October 9 at The Hideout. The power pop/glam rock band Indonesian Junk and provocative performer Bobby Conn, performing with his wife Monica Boubou, are also on the bill.

Mary-Arrchie Theatre kicks off its 30th and final season this week with a production of the Peter Morris two-performer play Guardians. It’s a hard-edged look at war-time atrocities. Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky recently broke the disappointing news to the media that his critically acclaimed storefront theatre is losing its long-time performance space and has decided to call it quits when the current seasons ends in 2016. Three more productions are on the way, and there will be a 28th Annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Theatre Festival

The latest issue of Streetwise has a Fall 2015 Concert Guide, and a feature on the Chicago Jazz Festival. Back in the early 1990s, I was one of the first people to write for Streetwise, a publication that's dedicated to helping homeless people get back on their feet again. It's nice to see it still thriving and covering the Chicago arts scene. So be sure to buy a copy from one of the vendors you see around the downtown area.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Weeklings - Monophonic

The Weeklings are hardly the first band aiming to capture the effervescent sound of The Beatles, but success comes naturally to them on their official full-length debut Monophonic. Guitarist Rocky (John Merjave) and bassist Lefty (Glen Burtnik) have performed with the critically acclaimed Beatles tribute band Liverpool for several years, and they've found like-minded collaborators in Zeek (Bob Burger) and Ramblin' Dave (Dave Anthony). The 12 songs, which are evenly divided between Burtnik-Burger compositions and obscure gems The Beatles composed but never officially released, were recorded using pretty much the same approach that was prevalent in the early 1960s.

The Weeklings kick things off on Monophonic with "Little Tease" and "Leave Me With My Pride,"a pair of catchy originals that evoke the earliest days of Beatlemania. "Mona Lisa" provides the missing link between the British Invasion and power pop by adding elements of Cheap Trick and The Raspberries. The delicate "Oh! Darla" is sort of a darker take on "When I'm 64," in which a guy imagines a time when he's old and useless but still has memories of this wonderful woman. "Breathing Underwater," with its amiable shuffling beat, and the optimistic "If I Was In Love" would have fit in well on Revolver or Rubber Soul.

The Beatle songs on Monophonic may be obscure but they're well chosen and given inventive arrangements. George Harrison's "You Know What To Do" sounds more fortified than the sparse demo that's available on The Beatles Anthology Series, while Lennon and McCartney's "One And One Is Two" and "I'm In Love" are brought to life with authentic Fab Four instrumentation and vocals. "It's For You" and "That Means A Lot" are gorgeous romantic ballads, while the biting "If You've Got Trouble" has the energetic feel of "Ticket To Ride."

When The Weeklings performed at this year's Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago, they offered a preview of some more Beatles rarities that are slated to be on the follow-up to Monophonic.  
It would also be interesting to hear some Burtnik-Burger songs that were influenced by tracks from the Abbey Road and Let It Be era.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Saturday Slumgullion

City Winery Chicago will present Behind The Lens with Photographers Henry Diltz and Pattie Boyd on September 16. This qualifies as an official event of A Hollies Summer In Chicago since Diltz did a fantastic photo shoot with The Hollies in 1966, and took the iconic cover shot for Crosby, Stills and Nash’s debut album. He also did the cover of The Doors’ Morrison Hotel, and has worked with some of rock’s biggest stars. Boyd wrote about her marriages to George Harrison and Eric Clapton in her book Wonderful Tonight, and is also a successful photographer. Tickets for the City Winery show range from $28 to $36.

There’s an opening reception for the Elgin ArtSpace Gallery's Fez Fest 2015 from 6:00 to 10: PM on September 11. The event, created by the people at Dangerous Brains, is being described as "an interactive celebration showcasing the Fez in art, history, and pop culture.” Which presumably, will include Doctor Who and Steely Dan.

As reported by Troy L. Smith on, The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame will honor Graham Nash with an upcoming exhibit titled Graham Nash: Touching The Flame. Nash is expected to be on hand when the exhibit opens on October 17, and there’s a possibility he’ll perform. In addition to displaying some the singer-songwriter's photographs and memorabilia, Touching The Flame will focus on musicians like Buddy Holly and The Everly Brothers who influenced the music he created with The Hollies, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and throughout his solo career. I couldn’t find any mention of this on The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame site, but hopefully it will have some info posted soon.

In last week’s Slumgullion I mentioned that the Milwaukee-based power pop band Trolley will be showcasing songs from its upcoming release Caught In The Darkness while performing on tour with Irish alt-rockers Pugwash. That tour now includes a September 17 show at 27 Live in Evanston. In a recent email, Trolley frontman Paul J. Wall described Pugwash as having an "XTC, ELO, Beach Boys and Beatles style." Pugwash’s new release, Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) came out yesterday, and the 27 Live gig will be the band's first journey to Illinois. 

Congratulations to WXRT’s Program Director Norm Winer on being named as a recipient of a Fifth Star Award from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. As recently reported by Chicago Sun-Times media columnist Robert Feder, Winer and four others will be honored during a ceremony on September 16 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Winer has been guiding the progressive rock station for over 35 years. The event is free and will include performances by Sandra Delgado and Reginald Robinson; Steppenwolf Theatre; Sweet Honey In The Rock; NTO (Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra) and the WXRT All Stars featuring Kelly Hogan, Frank Orrall, JC Brooks and Jimmy Chamberlin; and The Joffrey Ballet Exelon Strobel Step-Up Dancers.   

For anyone who enjoys tales of divine rule resulting from a watery tart throwing a sword, The Metropolitan Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights will be presenting Spamalot from September 16 through October 11. Tickets are $38.

The Leela Arts Center in downtown Des Plaines has reopened. ComedySportz Chicago is doing its improv thing there through September 12; followed by The Guild Theater’s performances of Spoon River Anthology September 18 through October 11 and Stories Of The Macabre October 16 through 31. 

According to a recent article by Robert Channick in the Chicago Tribune, a free Fall Preview version of Time Out Chicago will start showing up on September 9 at restaurants, bars, stores, and other venues around the city. It will be the publication’s first printed edition since in over two years.

There will be a Doctor Who-themed Ladies Night from 6:00 to 8:00 PM on September 16 at Graham Crackers Comics at 77 E. Madison. The group usually meets at the store on the first Wednesday of each month and encourages women to “bring comics you are reading or creating, swap stories and share recommendations.” This particular event is A Fandom Tea Party that will feature free tea samples and baked goods.

Minstrel Palooza Live 2015, a seven-hour party celebrating the long-standing Minstrel Music store in Niles, will be held on September 20 at the Palatine venue Durty Nellie’s. The hard-hitting/satirical power pop band Van Go goes on at 4:00 PM, and I’ve been told more details will emerge in the near future. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Herb Eimerman - Five Dimensional Man

Herb Eimerman, who has been the American one third of the international power pop/neo-1960s trio The Britannicas for some years now, plays just about all the instruments and does all the vocals on his recently released EP Five Dimensional Man. It might seem like he's copying his fellow Britannicas member Joe Algeri's one-man band side project The JAC, but Eimerman has recorded a number of solo efforts in the past. He also joined forces with Jeff Murphy from Shoes for The Nerk Twins.

Eimerman continues to place a strong emphasis on catchy melodies on Five Dimensional Man, but he also underscores the EP's title by venturing beyond his Byrds-Beatles comfort zone. The acoustic-based "Believe That I Do" is a spiritual meditation set to an appealing, light arrangement, and "Something" is a well-crafted love song. "Sentimental In Berlin," which features Algeri on keyboards, slides through numerous tempo changes. "Just Wishful Thinking" finds Eimerman succeeding with a more hard-edged approach that showcases his guitar prowess along with a defiant attitude. "Live To Tell" is more familiar territory for him, as he delivers a fun mix of layered vocals and jangling guitars.
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