Monday, December 31, 2018

One Last Post For 2018

Best wishes to all for a happy and safe New Year’s Eve!

The latest edition of MOJO has a 75 Best Albums Of 2018 list, and it’s hard to fathom how the British rock publication placed Call The Comet by Johnny Marr all the way down at #68. It’s his third stellar solo effort in the past few years and belongs in the Top 10. Other artists on the list include Prince (#42), Richard Thompson (#41), Paul McCartney (#27), Elvis Costello (#26), Cat Power (#25), Paul Weller (#14), and Breeders (#10).

“Auld Lang Syne” will resonate more deeply this year for the staff and regulars of The Heartland Cafe. A popular food and live entertainment venue on Chicago’s far north side since 1976, it closed for good today at 5:00 p.m. It was an inviting place for local acts to develop a following, and it also played host to International Pop Overthrow - Chicago for several years. IPO founder David Bash paid tribute to Heartland Cafe in a recent Facebook post. The Chicago incarnation of his traveling power pop festival will move to the LiveWire venue on Milwaukee Avenue.

Having posted a review praising the 2016 debut EP Turn Around from The Top Boost recently, I was glad to hear the Vancouver, BC power pop/psychedelic trio is now “putting the finishing touches” on a new effort. I’m looking forward to hearing it.

My wife Pam and I saw Bohemian Rhapsody over the holidays, and despite the fact that the film tosses the Freddie Mercury/Queen timeline in a blender and serves it up as a frothy concoction, we enjoyed it for the most part. Seeing the songs come to life and watching the band members argue over whose stuff would get recorded (there was a running joke about “I’m In Love With My Car”) was fun, and the live performances were impressive.

One of the previews we saw before the Queen movie started was for the Elton John Rocketman biopic coming out this summer. Perhaps due to the uproar over the factual errors in Bohemian Rhapsody, the Elton John flick is being billed as “Based On A True Fantasy.” I hope it has a scene showing Elton playing piano in the studio with The Hollies while they record “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother,” but I don’t think that’s likely.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Champagne Toast

If it’s become obvious that none of your friends are having a New Year’s Eve party, or worse yet, there is a party and you weren’t invited, here are a few suggestions on how to still have fun tomorrow night.

Nick Lowe is in the midst of a short series of gigs at SPACE in Evanston, and for his New Year’s Eve bash, he’ll be joined by the instrumental group Los Straitjackets. The pairing makes perfect sense since Los Straitjackets recorded an album’s worth of Lowe’s material titled What’s So Funny About Peace, Love And Los Straitjackets on the indie label Yep Roc Records. Lowe himself has a lengthy resume to draw from, including “Cruel To Be Kind,” “Raging Eyes,” “So It Goes,” “Cracking Up,” “Play That Fast Thing (One More Time),” and of course, “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love And Understanding?”

Material Reissue, which features original Material Issue band members bassist-vocalist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko, along with singer-guitarist Phil Angotti, will ring in the new year with awesome original power pop tunes like “Valerie Loves Me,” “Renee Remains The Same,” and their chilling cover of The Green Pajamas’ “Kim The Waitress” at the Liar’s Club on Fullerton in Chicago. John San Juan, a member of the Chicago psychedelic band The Hushdrops as well as a solo recording artist, will be helping out on guitar. The doors open at 8:00 p.m., and according to a Facebook post, the rocking starts at 11:00 p.m.

Tomorrow is the last day Chicagoans can check out the Saturday Night Live: The Experience exhibit is at the Chicago Museum of Broadcast Communications on State Street. Just seeing some of the costumes and props that were used in iconic skits and songs over the TV show’s extensive history elicits smiles and often, bursts of laughter.

It would easier to predict what the coming year will bring than guess what cover versions EXPO ’76 will perform at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on New Year’s Eve. These veterans of the Chicago club scene have decades of material in their repertoire and the way they combine unlikely tunes together adds to the fun. The Outcast Jazz Band will also be on hand.

The Neverly Brothers will bring their rock and roll history tour to the Pheasant Run Mainstage Theatre in St. Charles tomorrow night but they won’t be there to ring in the new year. Their set ends at 9:30.

The new Hey Nonny club in downtown Arlington Heights (a short walk from the Metra station) is holding a New Year’s Eve Blues Bash with Lil’ Ed And The Blues Imperials. The show starts at 8:00 p.m.

Those who have fully recovered from their New Year’s Eve revelry by Thursday can check out the Montrose Saloon Tribute Social Night #2 - Elvis Costello Edition. Phil Angotti, Brad Elvis, Chloe F. Orwell, Rachel Drew, and Casey McDonough are among the participating acts, and all of them are veterans of tribute shows around Chicago.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Top Boost - Turn Around

The Top Boost released their five-track debut Turn Around in 2016, but I had never heard of them until International Pop Overthrow CFO/Founder David Bash posted a Facebook shoutout after they performed at one of his festivals earlier this year. A quick visit to their Bandcamp page proves Bash’s admiration is justified. Self-described as “Vancouver’s premier (and only) psychedelic power pop trio,” The Top Boost is drummer Hunter Gogo, guitarist Krill Yurtsev, bassist Parker Elkins, and at some point, bassist Greg Johnstone. All of them sing.

Turn Around, which was recorded in Vancouver and mixed at Abbey Road Studios in London, opens with the brief and silly “Sunscreen Livin.’” From there, chief songwriter Hunter crafts breathtaking melodies while celebrating the mystical, if all too often brief, power of romance. “She has every piece of you written on her mind” is one of the more intriguing images from “What If She Loves You,” a high-energy gem fueled by Yurtsev’s jangling guitar playing.

The wistful “Tell That Girl” is a gorgeous ballad that promises, “I’ll be thinking of you when I’m gone,” and the title track features a spacey atmosphere built with swirling keyboards. “Still On My Mind” mixes 1960s era psychedelic and garage rock at a brisk pace, and gives the EP a massive finish.  

Friday, December 21, 2018

Slumgullion

Happy Birthday to my lovely wife Pam. She set up this blog for me a little over nine years ago, and without that help, Broken Hearted Toy would never have been possible.

That’s what girls (and boys) want. Material Reissue, which features original Material Issue band members bassist-vocalist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko, along with singer-guitarist Phil Angotti, will ring in the new year with awesome power pop at the Liar’s Club on Fullerton in Chicago on December 31. The doors open at 8:00 p.m.

The online Graham Nash Official Store recently had its grand opening, and there are plenty of items, including t-shirts, autographed CDs, and manuscripts, that would thrill all the Nash fans on your holiday gift list. I still remember getting my first Hollies album as Christmas gift in 1966. Personally, I’d love to see Nash bring a pop-up store to Chicago.

Someday soon, you might see me wearing Handcuffs. Apparel. The Handcuffs, the Chicago-based indie band that recorded three solid albums and has landed songs on national TV shows, is now selling t-shirts. Check The Handcuffs’ Facebook page for details. Mine came in the mail today.

Chloe F. Orwell and Brad Elvis of The Handcuffs will be among the musicians paying tribute to Elvis Costello at a show coming up at Montrose Tavern on January 3. On February 8, The Handcuffs will share a double bill with The Jet Beats at Montrose Saloon. The Handcuffs are also busy working on their next album.

The Women Of Soul: With A Tribute To Aretha Franklin runs through January 13 at the Black Ensemble Theatre on Chicago’s north side. BET is well know for its authentic tribute shows to soul and rhythm and blues artists.

Nick Lowe will perform at SPACE in Evanston on December 29 and 30, and for his New Year’s Eve bash at that same venue, he’ll be joined by Los Straitjackets.

San Francisco-based singer/multi-instrumentalist Richard Turgeon shows impeccable taste in the songs he’s chosen for his new 9 Covers album, which is available for a limited time as a free download on his website. The interpretations of The Beatles, Tom Petty, Nirvana, and Gin Blossoms are particularly impressive. Turgeon has recorded two albums of original material, which are available for sale on his site.

The Chicago-based indie band Mooner has teamed up with producer Kit Shields for a cover version of the Tears For Fears hit “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.” It’s an instrumental take that sounds like it was part of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, and can be downloaded for free on the band’s website. The song is a preview of Mooner’s EML 101 Vol. 2, a full album of cover versions due out in January.

The Sons Of The Silent Age David Bowie tribute band has a gig coming up January 12 at Metro that will help the NorthShore University HealthSystem Foundation in its fight against cancer. Michael Shannon, the nationally acclaimed actor with strong ties to the Chicago theatre scene, will perform a few Lou Reed songs at the Metro show.

Chicago Tribune writer Heidi Stevens usually doesn’t review local theatre productions in her balancing act column, but her recent take on the Goodman Theatre’s annual production of A Christmas Carol made an interesting point. Stevens focused on the compassion and determination Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew Fred (changed to niece Frida in the Goodman show) employed in the hope of transforming the old miser into a caring human being again.

Best wishes to everyone for a joyous and caring holiday season.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Slumgullion

Congratulations to 2019 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees The Cure, Def Leppard; Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks; Radiohead, Roxy Music, and The Zombies. I was particularly pulling for The Zombies, not only because their catchy blues and jazz infused pop songs were ahead of their time, but because I had the honor of doing a phone interview with Zombies frontman Colin Blunstone for the Illinois Entertainer a few years back, and he couldn’t have been nicer.

Perhaps no act deserves the ahead-of-their-time description more than Roxy Music; and The Cure, like last year’s inductee The Cars, played a huge role in helping new wave become an enduring genre rather than simply a fad.

The RRHOF is not without its critics, and for a lot of discerning rock fans, the failure to induct Todd Rundgren was inexcusable. If you’d like to tell him that in person, he’s kicking off a tour in April. He’ll be at the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago on April 23 and 24. Other stops on the tour include Atlanta, New York, Boston, and Toronto.

Welcome to legendary English guitarist Richard Thompson, who has arrived in Chicago for performances tonight and tomorrow at Thalia Hall.

The 20th Annual Animation Show Of Shows started today at the Gene Siskel Film Center and runs through December 27. The 15 animated short films come from France, USA, Germany, Brazil, The Netherlands, and Spain.

Wild Honey, the California based concert promoter that regularly stages benefit concerts that bring together well-known musicians to pay tribute to The Beatles, Big Star, Buffalo Springfield, and other artists, has another show in the works. Wild Honey Orchestra Perform The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society will be held on February 23 at The Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA. Special guests will be announced soon.

Tickets went on sale today for Bad Examples at FitzGerald’s on February 8; Adrian Belew at Old Town School Of Folk Music on April 4; King Crimson at the Auditorium Theatre on September 10; Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at SPACE on April 10; and Rachel Yamagata at City Winery Chicago on January 29 and 30.

Tickets are also on sale for Van Morrison at the Chicago Theatre on April 24 and 25; Gang Of Four at SPACE on February 13; The Chills at The Empty Bottle on February 27; Alice Peacock at SPACE on May 18; Marshall Crenshaw and The Bottle Rockets (two shows) at Old Town School Of Folk Music on April 6; Neko Case at The Vic Theatre on April 26 and 27; Queen and Adam Lambert at the United Center on August 9; and Jenny Lewis at the Riviera Theatre on March 30.

Durty Nellie’s in Palatine is hosting a Benefit To Feed The Hungry  from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. this Monday. Wall Of Denial, a Stevie Ray Vaughn tribute band, is hosting the event with benefits going to the Schaumburg Food Pantry.

Chicago’s rollicking and always fun rockabilly/garage rock band The Amazing Heeby Jeebies will have a residency throughout 2019 at Montrose Saloon, playing every second Sunday. The band promises special guests and lots of surprises.

First, there was Head Over Heels, the Broadway play featuring songs by The Go-Go’s, and now there’s a new book of crime fiction inspired by the band’s music. Edited by Holly West, with a forward by Go-Go’s member Jane Wiedlin, Murder-A-Go-Go’s includes tales based on “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “Skidmarks On My Heart,” Head Over Heels,” “We Got The Beat,” Lust To Love” and other tracks from Go-Go’s albums. Authors include Lori Rader-Day, Susanna Calkins, Greg Herren, Lisa Alber, Eric Beetner, Nadine Nettmann, and Travis Richardson. The anthology, which features an illustration of the band members in full Sam Spade mode on the cover, is available from Down and Out Books. Net proceeds will benefit Planned Parenthood of America.

I received my copy of The Alternate Boot, the new album from Chicago alt rockers whitewolfsonicprincess yesterday, and I’m looking forward to exploring its provocative sounds. Wes Hollywood is simultaneously releasing the full album Dynamite and the four-song EP Lipstick. Both efforts feature the exquisite power pop we’ve have come to expect from this Chicago act. Plus, there are new hard-hitting albums from Van Go and Norwood Park All Stars. Please consider giving the gift of local music this holiday season. There’s plenty of great stuff to share.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Before And After They Turned To Stone

Fans of The Stone Roses are justifiably disappointed that the Manchester-based band has released so few albums since its groundbreaking self-titled debut in 1989. Earlier this year, two Stone Roses-related singles appeared via Record Store Day in the UK. The Waterfront band is a predecessor that featured musicians who would later form The Stones Roses, and The High was formed after the Stone Roses made their mark. Both records should please fans not only as collector’s items, but also because the songs are good.

“Normandy”/“Where The Wind Blows” was previously only available as a limited run cassette distributed by The Waterfront back in the 1980s. The band included future Stone Roses members Andy Couzens, John Squire, and Gary “Mani” Mounfield. The Waterfront brought an appealing working class feel to these songs, or in the case of “Normandy,” perhaps not being employed at all. Backed by a sparse arrangement that calls to mind The Clash, it describes feeling cold, hungry, and alone while walking along the beach. “Where The Wind Blows,” with its loping bass guitar and band members whistling, seems a bit silly coming from the guys who would go on to found The Stone Roses, but it’s still fun. When the remastered “Normandy” was released on vinyl for this year’s RSD, it helped raise money for The Christie Hospital in Manchester.

The High, led by Andy Couzens after his success with The Stone Roses, pursued an atmospheric rock approach on its two albums. “Say It Now” was originally recorded as a demo and never made the cut for those releases. It sounds majestic in the recently remastered version, with lines like, “I never looked back” and “You have thrown it all away” spinning the tale of a faltering relationship. The extended shoegazer arrangement (over five minutes) is built on shimmering guitars and expansive keyboards. “Sugarpuff,” a song about starting over, was recorded in 2015 and has an infectious energy reminiscentt of The Cure. Couzens recently brought The High back to life with a few different members.



Monday, December 10, 2018

Power Pop Mates Offer A Pair Of New Holiday Songs

Singer/multi-instrumentalist Joe Algeri from Australia and singer/bassist Herb Eimerman from the USA collaborate as members of The Britannicas through the magic of modern technology. (Guitarist/vocalist Magnus Karlsson and drummer Stefan Johansson from Sweden make up the rest of the international power pop band.) Algeri and Eimerman have also pursued separate musical paths for years. Algeri records as the one-man band The JAC (with occasional help from others) and also works with The Outyders and the appropriately named The Jangle Band. Eimerman is a veteran solo recording artist and joined forces with Jeff Murphy of Shoes for the side project Nerk Twins. His heartfelt and melodic ballad “You Gave Me” is one of the many highlights on the Yuletunes power pop holiday compilation produced by Murphy back in 1991. And now, Algeri and Eimermann have both released new holiday songs that are available for a free download.

Algeri’s wistful “December” continues his 18-year tradition of offering a new Christmas song for a free download on his Bandcamp page. As with past efforts, it’s a bit off kilter, with a chiming pop arrangement that evokes 1960s bands like The Byrds. There’s also a nice dose of Beach Boys style vocals as Algeri relates how the twelfth month always brings back memories of an old flame he once sipped spiced rum with and who also had an affection for Soft Boys records. The catchy arrangement features Algeri on lead vocals, guitar, and piano; Eimerman on bass and backing vocals; and Swedish musicians drummer Stefan Johansson and organ player Lars Bruselll.

Eimerman’s catchy and cheerful “Don’t Ask For More” suggests every day can be Christmas, and features jangling guitars directly inspired by Roger McGuinn. It’s more rock oriented than his much earlier “You Gave Me,” but Eimerman once again uses the holiday to reflect on what’s really important in life. He plays most of the instruments, with help from Algeri on 12-string Rickenbacker and Australian Mark “Sid” Eaton on drums. “Don’t Ask For More” is available for free download on Joe Algeri’s Bandcamp page.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Slumgullion

The Handcuffs, Mike Skill and ’67 Riot, and Mike Coy will join forces for an impressive triple bill tomorrow night at Montrose Saloon. Skill is a longtime member of The Romantics, and Brad Elvis plays drums with The Handcuffs and The Romantics. Coy will being doing an acoustic set. The music starts at 9:00 p.m.

Big Brother’s Vinyl, a guitar-driven band that covers classic rock hits, as well as deep album cuts, returns to the Arlington Ale House tomorrow night.

Alt rock band whitewolfsonicprincess has its third album coming out soon, and will be hosting its annual Rock For Tots event tomorrow night at The Store on Chicago’s north side. They’ll be joined be Telepaths; The Dark Room Men; The Rut (a musical offshoot of the Famous In The Future comedy group); the five-woman David Bowie tribute band Lady Stardust; acoustic duo Parallelicopter; Ex Maquina; the power trio Portmantowzone; and comedian Trevor Gertonson. The show kicks off at 7:30 p.m.; The Store is located at 2002 N. Halsted.

Cheap Kiss Records is having a warehouse sale featuring lots of cool vinyl tomorrow from 9:00 a.m to 1:00 p.m at 604 Albion Avenue in Schaumburg, IL. The store’s Facebook post shows albums by U2, R.E.M., Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick, and The Cars.

Congratulations to The Art Institute Of Chicago on its 125th Anniversary. The museum will celebrate  will special events tomorrow.

Several musicians around the world have posted tributes to Pete Shelley of The Buzzcocks, who passed away recently from what is believed to be a heart attack. Fans have also been posting links to YouTube videos of their favorite Buzzcocks songs on Facebook. The band was known for combining the power of punk with irresistible melodies.

The Irish Heritage Center on Chicago’s northwest side will present Paddy Homan and The Noble Call Irish Christmas show this Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Vocalist/recording artist Homan is adept at festive as well as heartfelt songs, and The Noble Call is a quartet that features traditional Celtic instruments. Both acts will also have dancers on stage.

Tickets went on sale today for Neko Case at The Vic Theatre on on April 26 and 27; and Jenny Lewis at the Riviera Theatre on March 30. Lewis has a new album coming out around that time.

Other shows now on sale include Queen and Adam Lambert at the United Center on August 9; Elton John at the Allstate Arena on February 15; Wanda Jackson at SPACE on March 14; Marshall Crenshaw and The Bottle Rockets (two shows) at Old Town School Of Folk Music on April 6; Terry Reid at SPACE on April 25; Snow Patrol at the Riviera Theatre on May 7; and Old 97’s at Thalia Hall on March 28.

Tom Lanham’s cover story on The Old 97’s in the December issue of the Illinois Entertainer mentions that lead vocalist Rhett Butler has what Lanham describes as an “Edward Gorey-grim” book of children’s poetry called No More Poems! coming out in March. “I even scored the biggest illustrator in the business,” Miller states, “this guy who’s a Caldecott winner winner.” We sometimes have guest authors at the monthly writers group I belong to, so maybe our people could call his people.

By the way, “Rudolph Was Blue” from The Old 97’s Love The Holidays album is one of the most fun rock holiday songs to be released this year.

Van Morrison has shows coming up at the Chicago Theatre on April 24 and 25. His new album The Prophet Speaks just came out today.

The first U.S. tour by The Chills since 1996 will include a stop at The Empty Bottle in Chicago on February 27. Other dates include Brooklyn, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. The New Zealand band found worldwide success with “Heavenly Pop Hit” back in the 1980s, but with Martin Phillipps at the helm, continues to record engaging albums like the recently released Snow Bound and their politically charged 2016 effort Silver Bullets.

M-U-S-T-S-E-E. Women Of Soul: With A Tribute To Aretha Franklin is currently running at the Black Ensemble Theatre on Chicago’s north side. BET his well know for its authentic tribute shows to soul and rhythm and blues artists. Women Of Soul runs through January 13.

Just over a year ago, when my wife Pam and I were visiting Manhattan, I bought a Bruce Springsteen On Broadway shot glass at the Hard Rock CafĂ© store. I asked the clerk if Bruce himself had ever browsed the souvenirs from his show, and she joked, “If he did, people would have heard me scream for miles around.” She’ll likely be among the multitude of fans buying the Springsteen on Broadway soundtrack when it’s released next Friday. The show Springsteen On Broadway ends its run on December 15.

The 20th Annual Animation Show Of Shows comes to the Gene Siskel Film for a two-week run starting on December 14.

Congratulations to my nephew Joe Flamm, winner of the Season 15 Top Chef competition on the Bravo Channel, and his wife Hillary Delich on the birth of their son Luka.

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Bookends - Far Away But Around

Bassist Sharon Lee and guitarist Karen Lynn leave no doubt as to which decade serves as the main inspiration for the 12 catchy songs on their new Far Away But Around album. Performing under the name The Bookends, they’re able to recreate various shades of 1960s rock through authentic instrumentation and their dual vocals approach. For the most part, they deal in girl-meets-boy, boy-is-impossible-to-figure-out relationships.

On “What I Wouldn’t Do” and “Mean What You Say,” guitar-driven garage rock arrangements underscore the message that some guy is about to get kicked to the curb. “Let It Go,” which features instrumentation inspired by the earliest days of The Who, also deals with a two-faced boyfriend. The songs are fun but might have worked even better with a rougher edge to the vocals.

“It Takes Two” sounds like how The Go-Go’s and The Bangles have interpreted the 1960s, as a woman passes a word of caution on to her ex-boyfriend’s new flame. “The Rooftop” is a romantic celebration that evokes a packed dance floor at a sock hop. A good boyfriend also surfaces on the peppy “Morning Sky,” which proves The Bookends are also adept at more current sounding indie rock.
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