Local Record Roundup
TIM BARNES & GLENN KOTCHE Domo-Domo (Quakebasket) This limited edition vinyl-only release documents a pair of long duets performed in New York last year by two of Jim O’Rourke’s regular drummers. (Kotche, the Chicagoan, is also Ken Coomer’s recent replacement in Wilco.) Both are exercises in carefully articulated give-and-take, focusing on texture over rhythm: percussive devices are bowed, rubbed, dropped, shaken, and grazed as often as they’re outright struck, and the lavalike crawl of sound is enhanced by mild electronic manipulation. Although the music is improvised, there’s a shape to it; it doesn’t exactly tell a story, but the expert tension-and-release tactics make it a page-turner nonetheless.
DANNY THE WILDCHILD Booked 001 (Strictly Hype) One of Chicago’s most active drum ‘n’ bass DJs, Danny the Wildchild (aka Danny Garcia) is known for flaunting his hip-hop roots in his hard-hitting sets, dropping in old-school tracks and new-school scratching, but on this new mix CD he sticks to basics. Although hypnotic diva samples drift in and out of a handful of tracks, most of the album’s 17 selections–including cuts by heavies like Danny Breaks, Mickey Finn, and DJ Zinc–are all woofer-blasting bass and heart attack-inducing beats. If the hyperkinetic dance-floor approach generally leaves you cold, this CD ain’t going to change your mind.
EDDIE DIXON & GRAPESHOT Eddie Dixon & Grapeshot (no label) Influence spotting is easy sport with new bands, but most of the time the influences are other bands. For Eddie Dixon & Grapeshot, the primary influence seems to be a producer, Mitchell Froom, and specifically the weird tension he’s crafted between the rhythm section and the foreground instruments on records by acts like Soul Coughing, the Latin Playboys, and his wife, Suzanne Vega. Unfortunately this quartet’s attention to sonic detail is rarely matched by songwriting: the music gets by on the airy jumbo grooves sculpted by drummer Aaron Fisher and bassist Derek Sutfin. Dixon, who adds giddy organ swells, sings in an irritating style somewhere between the larger-than-life huff of Tom Waits and the dopey white-boy rhyming of M. Doughty, but when the band, rounded out by spare guitarist Kevin O’Gorman, actually finds a melody to pummel–as on “Pudding Spoon” or “All Long Pants”–it’s tolerable. If these guys devote a little more time to hooks the next time around, they might deliver something genuinely striking.
WES HOLLYWOOD SHOW The Girls Are Never Ending (Solid Action) Although the band members are decked out as lounge lizard losers on the cover of their second album, the music harks back to the skinny-tie sounds of early Joe Jackson and the Knack. The performances lack the razor sharpness (and, to be fair, probably the production budget) of these predecessors, but the hooks still sink impressively deep.
LUCKY BOYS CONFUSION Throwing the Game (Elektra) The default mode for this suburban quintet is peppy pop-punk with singsongy melodies banal enough to put Mitch Miller to sleep, but they toss in generous shots of denatured reggae and hip-hop, and front man Kaustubh Pandav sings with a radio-friendly blend of raspy passion and teenybopper treacle. After watching Disturbed go platinum–I predicted in a past column that their album would clog the cut-out bins–I won’t lay odds on LBC’s future. But I will say that with their ability to make aggressive guitar rock sound safe as milk, they could be punk’s answer to the Backstreet Boys.
OVAL-TEEN A Million Shades of Oval-Teen (MOC) This pop trio from Yorkville strives for the breathy grandeur of the Beach Boys and ends up sounding like a distant cousin of the Elephant 6 crew. Oval-Teen uses dynamics well and the sweet melodies are occasionally quite good, but the vocals often fall flat and the playing meanders too much to ever really achieve liftoff.
JONNY POLONSKY There Is Something Wrong With You (Eggbert) Five years after releasing his hooky debut for American Records, precocious popsmith Jonny Polonsky finally returns–with six songs totalling 16 minutes. His first record delivered Elvis Costello-derived pop that made up in appealing raggedness what it lacked in searing smarts, but the new collection polishes the rough edges away. When the melodies are as strong as in the opener, “Freezed,” the production is irrelevant, but “Long Gone” disintegrates into new-wave twaddle, and the potentially lovely “You Are My Star” unfolds into a schlocky power ballad. Polonsky can write pretty tunes–I don’t know why he feels compelled to plaster their poor faces with makeup.
TYPICAL CATS Typical Cats (Galapagos4) Another product–along with the better-known Molemen–of the underground hip-hop scene that congregates at the WHPK FM studios in Hyde Park, the Typical Cats make up in diversity what they lack in flash. The group’s three MCs–Qwel, Denizen Kane, and Qwazaar–have distinctly different styles, ranging from spoken-word introspection to battle-rhyming braggadocio. The production, by Natural, is nothing breathtaking, but his patchwork of jazzy licks, soul shadings, and old-school breakbeats does the job with class.
Send gripes, leads, and love letters to Peter Margasak at email@example.com.