Rindy and Marv Ross of Quarterflash in 2010 Credit: Keith Buckley

I am not equipped to analyze last week’s events, but I did almost call the MAGA coup attempt “fucking shenanigans” instead of “events.” You can’t hear the angry Chicago accent that comes out when I say “shenanigans,” which might convey the mix of frustrated annoyance, disbelief, fear, and rage I feel—and under those circumstances, I’d rather not use a word that might make you think of fun times. At any rate, here at the Listener the goal is for us Reader staff to tell you about the music we’ve been listening to lately, and since Wednesday night it hasn’t been easy to shut off the news and retreat into my record collection—something I usually recommend as a way to begin the important process of self-care.

Because I’ve been obsessed with the stories behind “the story,” as I’m sure a lot of you have, the letter “Q” has been on my mind quite a bit. (If you don’t know why, you may want to leave that idyll undisturbed.) Amid my racing thoughts and general cognitive daze, I must’ve decided that I needed to attach something less horrifying to “Q.” I put on records by D.C. posthardcore band Q and Not U, their lesser-known townsfolk Quix*o*tic, late-70s funk circus Quazar (the band that 24-year-old singer Glenn Goins started after leaving P-Funk), and Queen Latifah (whose 1993 album Black Reign includes the eternally relevant “U.N.I.T.Y.”).

I took a break from wandering through the Q portions of my library (you’ve got it bad when you have to take a break from your doomscrolling break) and listened to Eye 94‘s archived Lumpen Radio interview with author Tea Krulos. Krulos’s new book, American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness, is all about what I’m trying to avoid talking about, and during the interview death-metal band the Alex Jones Prison Planet came up. They pair solid riffs with clips from Jones’s podcasts, which means their music is pretty unlistenable. I gave up and took a walk outside, to listen to cars speeding on Racine Avenue and my dog yelling at other dogs.

Late in the weekend, I reached a favorite Q single in my collection, 1981’s “Harden My Heart” by Quarterflash. This group from Portland, Oregon, features the wonderful Rindy Ross on vocals and saxophone—she’s truly someone who knows something about breath control. “Harden My Heart” was a huge hit in its day, and a lot of people my age or older still recognize it right from the opening sax solo. Less familiar is the art-school-on-steroids music video that the band made, angling for play on MTV (which launched in August ’81).

Rindy founded Quarterflash in 1980 with her husband, Marv (who wrote “Harden My Heart”), and the two of them still perform as a duo. Their most recent album, A Better World, came out in July 2020. Sometimes diving into the fondly familiar for a few minutes works as a balm for a seemingly never-ending barrage of fucking shenanigans.  v


The Listener is a weekly sampling of music Reader staffers love. Absolutely anything goes, and you can reach us at thelistener@chicagoreader.com.