As bands' boasts of an unlikely combination of influences go, I haven't heard a wilder one than the way guitarist-vocalist Chris Oakes described the Ragtones: as a combination of Tom Waits, the White Stripes and Nine Inch Nails. (Forget about "one of these things is not like the others"; none of them are!) Yet if the Chicago trio doesn't quite pull off that unholy marriage, it's easy to see what he was getting at: The band boasts a timeless, amorphous rootsiness at the same time that it feels thoroughly modern and sometimes downright alien.
Initially formed to provide the backdrop for a fashion show, the response to that one-off live show was so encouraging that the group decided to keep going, and it's been playing out regularly since early last year. The Ragtones--which are completed by keyboardist Jeremy Tromburg and drummer Mike Mazzola--are about to release a 10-song album aptly entitled "The Ragtones Time Travel Extravaganza." A generous sampling of their songs is streaming online at http://www.myspace.com/theragtones, and the band will perform at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, on Monday, March 22.