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October 2011 Archives

Halloween: Flaming Lips, Supersuckers, Matt & Kim, more

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Some Halloween treats in the music bin today:

lipsskull.jpg-- The Flaming Lips, ever determined to out gimmick themselves, have recorded a 24-hour song, "7 Skies H3" -- and are streaming it today (and streaming, and streaming...). The catch: For some reason, only 999 people can listen to it at once, so be prepared to wait and keep clicking. (While waiting, dive into their previous six-hour song here.) The song will be available for purchase, and comes delivered to you inside an actual human skull decorated with dripped chrome. Another catch: Only 13 are available, and each costs $5,000.

-- Superchunk, per a "tradition" they started last year, has released another Misfits cover today -- a free download of "Where Eagles Dare."

-- Dig the new zombie-themed video for Matt & Kim's "I'm a Goner." Wouldn't you know even after they die they still throw a fun, happy party ...

Is Roger Waters building 'The Wall' in Wrigley Field?

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Roger Waters may be returning to Chicago to build "The Wall" -- this time in the middle of Wrigley Field.

Live Nation has scheduled a press conference Tuesday morning at the ballpark for a "major concert announcement." Live Nation recently produced Waters' tour of Pink Floyd's classic opus "The Wall," which stopped in September 2010 at Chicago's United Center.

Music review: Lou Reed & Metallica, 'Lulu'

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loutallica.jpg"I attract and repel you," Lou Reed sing-speaks on "The View," the second bleak track on his new unholy alliance with heavy metal titans Metallica. The idea of this highly anticipated collaboration is -- to fans on either side, at least -- attractive. The band announced the project last June on its website, "a full-length album that is a collaboration with none other than the legendary Lou Reed," and minds began to reel. The result, however -- "Lulu" (Vertigo) (1<br />
star), out Tuesday -- is pretty repellent.

Blood cult: GWAR returns for Halloween

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Sometimes the best part of a GWAR concert is what happens outside the venue immediately after the show. Concertgoers -- most of them absolutely drenched in blood -- spill back onto city sidewalks, leaving bloody footprints and shrieking with glee or horror, it's hard to tell. Bewildered citizens look on with confusion and concern. What horrors just happened in there? Should we call 911?

Nah, it's only GWAR, America's long-running, costumed, shock-rock gore-fest.

Once an annual staple of Halloween in Chicago, the notorious and theatrical death metal band revives the tradition this year with another holiday encampment at the House of Blues -- complete with spewing bodily fluids, a giant foam-rubber maggot that devours "hot bitches" from the audience, and the opportunity to watch a "Jersey Shore" star disemboweled live onstage.

Hot locals: JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, White Mystery

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There's a trend on Facebook now posting photos of billboard-like and bumper-sticker slogans, everything from feel-good epigrams to hackneyed political statements. One such quotable making the rounds last week insisted, in cruder language than this, that you should get off your duff and see some live local music.

Here's the perfect opportunity: Friday night at Double Door two of the city's hottest young bands share a double bill -- the sizzling neo-soul of JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound (above right), followed by the monstrous garage rock duo White Mystery (above left). Eclectic and electric, and you really should go. Facebook says so.

To read about White Mystery, click here!

To read about JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, read on ...

herbie102411.JPGWhen we catch up with jazz legend Herbie Hancock, he's in his Los Angeles studio doing what comes naturally. He's fiddling with computers.

"I'm working with some technology here, trying to improve on some of it, trying to adjust the software -- adapting it for the tour," he says.

The tour he speaks of is one of three he has scheduled this fall. In the coming weeks, the revered and influential Chicagoan will be on the road with his current quartet, as well as playing more dates with orchestras (performing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue").

This week, though, Hancock returns to the Chicago area on what's being billed as his "first-ever U.S. solo tour" -- a surprising claim for the 71-year-old pianist whose career stretches back, past MTV hits and years with Miles Davis, to the 1950s.

Music review: Coldplay, 'Mylo Xyloto'

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coldplaymylo.jpg"We're hated as a band can be," Coldplay singer Chris Martin recently told Entertainment Weekly during an interview laced with a squirming inferiority complex. Perhaps that's absurd and disingenuous coming from an arena band with seven Grammys and 40 million albums sold (and a headlining slot at last summer's Lollapalooza), but at least it indicated a band trying not to rest on laurels. Describing the band's new album, "Mylo Xyloto" (Capitol) [2<br />
and a half stars], out today, Martin continued: "It's an effort to redefine what a Coldplay record is. Who knows if anyone will like it? But we definitely can't be accused of standing still and relying on the same formula."

Actually, that accusation is still easy and applicable -- and not necessarily a bad thing.

And the fifth (and final) Wilco show will be at ...

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Wilco has added a fifth -- and final -- concert and venue to the band's upcoming tour of its own hometown.

The band has announced another gig: 8 p.m. Dec. 18 at (drum roll, please) intimate Lincoln Hall.

janesaddictcd.jpgWeeks after playing an entertaining show at Chicago's intimate Metro, Jane's Addiction delivers "The Great Escape Artist" (Capitol) [2<br />
stars], the band's fourth proper studio outing in its fractured history and its first in eight years. The playful energy Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell displayed on stage, however, is muted and leaden in these recordings, a set of alarmingly patient, mid-tempo songs that opens bloodlessly and never really palpitates despite Dave Navarro's obtrusive, wanky guitars. TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek decorates the occasionally sweet melodies and well-written tunes with color and sound in the form of MIDI effects and synth flavors. But the freak flag flutters limply throughout the set, which isn't a bad thing (it would be worse if Farrell was still trying to be the psychedelic star child at this point), and the band doesn't attempt anything weird and wild until the very last track, the lurching "Words Right Out of My Mouth." If you've made it that far, though, you don't care much anymore.

Smashing Pumpkins explore catalog, reunite Catherine

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(Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)

Chicago met the new Smashing Pumpkins roster last year in a charity show where the faceless newcomers surrounding the always-identifiable, Charlie Brown-bald singer Billy Corgan acquitted themselves through most of the band's big 1990s hits, from "Tonight, Tonight" to "Today" and on back to "1979."

The perennial Pumpkins visit for 2011, however, had a largely different agenda. Corgan also brought along some old friends for an encore surprise.

Portugal. The Man returns to the scene of the crime

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Perhaps not the first, the theft of Portugal. The Man's musical gear following its Aug. 7 performance at Lollapalooza was at least one of the most high-profile criminal cases solved with the assistance of social media.

Within hours of receiving the news that the Alaska-via-Oregon band's van and trailer -- containing 97 pieces of equipment, including an organ, piano, amps, microphones and several collectible, vintage guitars -- had been stolen from a Chicago parking lot, members of the band did the only thing they could think of that might help: They cried for help on Twitter and Facebook.

The impassioned pleas for tips, police say, raised the profile of the case and made the stolen gear difficult to move. The Sun-Times and other media outlets picked up the story.

The van and trailer were recovered, empty. But days later, Chicago police charged a South Side mechanic with knowingly buying most of the stolen stuff (valued in total at $80,000) for $1,000 at the Swap-O-Rama flea market at 40th and Ashland. The man admitted to authorities he'd been "scared" to sell the equipment because of the attention.

"They were just things, but they were the things that made the sound we've been making and developing and earning our living as for six years," said the band's singer, John Gourley, during a recent interview. "The police helped us get that back. They were so great."

The instruments they wanted back. The van -- well, funny about the van.

Music reviews: Patrick Stump, M83, Kuedo

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stumpsoulpunk.jpgWhen Patrick Stump was singing for suburban Chicago breakout band Fall Out Boy, you could tell he was hungry like the wolf in sheepish alt-rock clothing.

"It comes as a surprise to people that I enjoy R&B, jazz, hip-hop a lot," Stump told me last spring as his solo tour came through town. "I can converse more about those than I can about modern rock. If you really listen to Fall Out Boy, we were never really total rock dudes. ... I'm calling the album 'Soul Punk' partly because there's this assumption that I'll put out an R&B record or a pop-punk record, and I'm really neither. I'm in between. I'm my own eccentric little me."

Stump's transformative full-length debut, "Soul Punk" (Island) [3<br />
stars] out this week, lets all his eccentric little self hang out -- all the '80s R&B synthesizers, all the Ray Parker jams, all the New Jack hip-hop and (get ready) rapping, and a heapin' helpin' of Michael Jackson influence (no surprise, given his popular MJ medley on YouTube). He produced the whole thing, wrote the whole thing and plays nearly every sound on it. In recent concerts, he's diverted from his own material not to play FOB songs but to stitch together medleys of artists such as Bobby Womack, Bell Biv Devoe and Billy Paul.

Will issues in 'Echotone' reverberate in Chicago?

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Chicago music fans interested in the idea of creating a targeted music district in the city -- as has been suggested by Mayor Emanuel -- might be interested in a film screening this weekend.

At 6:30 p.m. Saturday, the Empty Bottle with Consequence of Sound will be showing "Echotone," a documentary that chronicles the struggles of music venues and real estate developers along the notorious Sixth Street entertainment corridor in Austin, Texas, the self-proclaimed "live music capital of the world" and home each spring to the South by Southwest music festival.

The revolving Wilco show: Pick your venue!

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If you're keeping score at home: Wilco is now playing four different Chicago venues one week in December.

Weeks ago, the hometown band announced a special Dec. 12 gig at the Civic Opera House. After it sold out quickly, they added a second gig -- at a second venue. Then a third gig, third venue. Today, they've added show No. 4, venue No. 4.

Bryan Ferry more himself than ever at opera house

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(Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

Why is Bryan Ferry so unassailably cool as an interpretive singer while someone of the same vintage like, say, Rod Stewart is so easy to malign and make fun of?

It's all a matter of taste, and Ferry's remains impeccable. At 66, he glides on stage with a polished, professional 12-piece band and spices his set with Motown covers, Bob Dylan songs and other material that fits him like his smart suits. Ferry was a classy old man even as a twentysomething in the early Roxy Music days, when he was already moonlighting as a solo artist and turning a 1973 debut featuring singular renditions of songs by Goffin-King, Leiber-Stoller and Lennon-McCartney. The debonair "Casanova" that grooved Tuesday night on the stage of Chicago's Civic Opera House still appeared utterly in his element, maybe moreso. Stewart and similar hacks struggled to play grown-up too fast too late ("Great American Songbook," shudder), and Rod's suits are too often, well, purple.

The Academy Is... no more: Chicago band splits

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It may not be an R.E.M.-level announcement, but don't tell that to fans of The Academy Is..., the Chicago pop-punk band that announced its breakup this weekend via its website.

"We began in 2003 as three young friends in the suburbs of Chicago, with dreams of creating music that meant something to us," the statement reads. "Dreams of leaving those suburbs behind and seeing all of the beautiful things that this world has to offer. Dreams of making a difference in the lives of others. It is now 2011 and we look back at the records we've made, the shows we've played, the places we've been. The people we've met. The Academy Is... has made its mark."


Exene Cervenka (left) and John Doe (right) bash out the old hits in the band X on Wednesday night at Chicago's Bottom Lounge. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

Riot Fest 2011, Chicago's annual multi-venue punk party, opened this week with a sunny, SoCal streak -- Orange County's Social Distortion are back in town Thursday night, various incarnations of Los Angeles-rooted pop-punk bands the Descendents and All start Thursday and will continue into the weekend, and the architects of L.A. punk, the band X, performed their debut album "Los Angeles" to kick off the festival Wednesday night.

It's the 31st anniversary of the album; X also toured in 2008 on the 31st anniversary of their formation. (See you next year for the "Wild Gift" tour?)

Barreling through nine songs in 25 minutes, the band's original lineup -- bassist-singer John Doe, singer Exene Cervenka, guitarist Billy Zoom and drummer D.J. Bonebrake -- quickly dispatched that pioneering platter and then kept going.

"All right, so there's that record," Doe said as the chords from "The World's a Mess, It's in My Kiss" faded away. "Now we're gonna do a bunch of other stuff, and we're gonna have a good time."

Thomas Dolby boards the 'Floating City' ('science!')

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TDOLBY headphones lo res.jpgAt least Thomas Dolby spent his down time productively. That non-iPhone cell in your pocket? Dolby -- yes, the "She Blinded Me With Science" guy -- invented the tiny polyphonic synthesizer that allows it to play the "Star Wars" death march, or whatever ringtone you've programmed for your ex.

While A Flock of Seagulls, Howard Jones and a dozen other hairstyles slumped around the country on 1980s package tours in the subsequent decade, the Britain-born Dolby ditched performing and recording altogether for a career in Silicon Valley. He's happy thus far to have avoided the fate of his peers.

"I know some of my contemporaries from that period have been out there sort of doing the rounds, doing the rewind tours and the Vegas stints and things like that. I wouldn't touch that with a 10-foot pole," Dolby told the Sun-Times during a video chat from London. "A lot of my favorite artists, you'd sort of have to stop and think what decade they really belong to because they've managed to transcend that. The way you do that is by continuing to do great work and not dwelling on the past, and so that's what I'm doing."

Q&A with Thomas Dolby

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The complete conversation with Thomas Dolby about his first new album in nearly two decades, his green studio, his new video game and the future of music promotion and distribution ...

Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.


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