Cairo Gang Credit: Todd Weaver

On Dichotomy Desaturated (In the Red), his second solo outing under the CFM moniker, Charles Moothart once again played everything—though his pal Ty Segall contributes drums on one track—crafting an elegant strain of lumbering hard rock that shows impressive growth from his eponymous 2016 debut. Quite a few tracks feature strummed acoustic guitar, but despite a superficial airiness now and again, the music’s foundation is built on the sort of swinging hard rock perfected nearly five decades ago by Black Sabbath. On the most extroverted songs Moothart sounds more comfortable than ever behind the microphone, his vocals recalling the nasal incantations of Ozzy Osbourne. Despite the steady stream of overdriven guitar solos, Moothart channels a spaced-out melodic vibe redolent of early Pink Floyd, while the multipartite “Saline/The Man/Kind to You” reminds me of some early-70s Kinks action. He fronts a quartet on this latest Chicago visit.

Opening the show is former Chicagoan Emmett Kelly—now a trusted foil to Segall, much as he has been for Bonnie “Prince” Billy—who brings his great Cairo Gang to the stage with fellow Chi-Town expats Ryan Weinstein (bass) and Marc Riordan (drums) in tow. Earlier this year Kelly dropped Untouchable (God?), another immensely pleasurable spin on scrappy rock fundamentals that’s made the past few weeks a blast for me. Kelly deftly repurposes various licks and gestures from rock’s golden era—“That’s When It’s Over” opens with a well-trodden riff you might recognize from either “Crimson and Clover” or “There She Goes Again” before co-opting the hydroplaning turnaround Jimi Hendrix brought to “Hey Joe”—but those things feel more like trusted tropes than rip-offs, thanks largely to the fragile lead singing, the vocal harmonies, and the effortless guitar playing. A Cairo Gang record can sometimes suggest that Kelly was simply born in the wrong era, but that’s all erased by the group’s excellent live sets, during which a good melody negates all sense of time as you wisely spend the minutes drinking it in.   v

Untouchable by The Cairo Gang