In “A Special Message” at the end of Naked Raygun’s “new” Last of the Demo Hicans (Dyslexic) a male voice asks, “Who is this Naked Raygun, anyway?” In the band’s heyday it was a legitimate question, but today it’s a gimme: Naked Raygun, along with the likes of the Effigies and Big Black, defined Chicago’s belatedly celebrated mid-80s punk scene. The hummable whoa-oh choruses, perceptive lyrics, and lacerating guitar sound appealed to a cross section of hardcore punks and noise-rock fans, and the group’s enthusiastic live shows were legendary not just for the music but for how unabashedly fun they were. Last of the Demo Hicans is a collection of never-released takes, including a handful of early gems recorded during practice in the basement of the band’s Lincoln Park coach house in 1982 and ’83, when the lineup still included Camilo Gonzalez, singer Jeff Pezzati’s brother Marco, and Big Black’s Santiago Durango. There are also four new Steve Albini recordings of songs from the band’s lost 1992 swan song, “Last Demo.” (Among the best offerings is a live version of “Metastasis” from a 1986 Metro show that immediately transported me back to when the kids would slam counterclockwise around some hostile, immovable bald meanies collectively known as Skinhead Island.) Naked Raygun managed to outlast most of its peers, recording the somewhat disappointing Raygun…Naked Raygun without longtime guitarist John Haggerty in 1990 and calling it quits a few years later. These days bassist Pierre Kezdy plays with Haggerty in Pegboy, Haggerty’s replacement, Bill Stephens, is in the Tarts, Jeff Pezzati works as a mechanical engineer, and drummer Eric Spicer makes a living as a pipe fitter. The four are getting together for two shows this weekend and then will “see how we feel in a couple of months.” If last Sunday’s unannounced show at the Beat Kitchen is any indication, the boys have still got it. Whether “it” will strike a chord with today’s overstimulated youth remains to be seen–but then the first night is already sold out. The Tarts open. Saturday and Sunday, 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. CARA JEPSEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Brad Miller.