ROGER CLYNE & THE PEACEMAKERS 4/14, SCHUBAS Clyne was the leader of the late Tempe band the Refreshments, which made a couple records you probably don’t remember for Mercury; guitarist Scotty Johnson played in the almost-as-forgettable Gin Blossoms. A sort of mission statement on the back of their debut, Honky Tonk Union (Emma Java), says that “this record ain’t country, like Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle ain’t country.” Clyne says he admires artists like Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, and fellow Arizonan Linda Ronstadt, “whose locale is their muse,” but the only distinguishing feature of this flat, drab, well-trod terrain is his cloyingly commercial voice. LAZY COWGIRLS 4/14, BEAT KITCHEN This original cowpunk outfit, fronted by sole remaining original member Pat Todd, has been cranking out a deceptively simple but oh-so-effective hybrid of George Jones and the New York Dolls since the early 80s. Highlights of the ninth Cowgirls album, Somewhere Down the Line (Sympathy for the Record Industry), include the surge with which the hickoid stomp of “Leap of Faith” turns into the old-school chug of “But It’s Alright Now.” I’d really like to see these guys in a grudge match to the death (or last call, whichever comes first) with the Waco Brothers. PRESCRIPTIONS 4/14, FIRESIDE BOWL Chicago’s Prescriptions have been gigging constantly since 1996 or so, but until recently all they had to show for it was a seven-inch single, “Disassembled,” on the queercore label Spectrasonic. These women–ex-Smoothies guitarist Sarah Contorer, ex-Motorhome drummer Laura Ann Masura, and bassist Atsu Nagayama, who also plays with the all-female, all-Asian band Kim–know there’s a lot more to rock than identity politics, and their debut full-length, Why We Don’t Rent to Women (produced by Dave Trumfio and released on Johann’s Face, though the artwork is very Jade Tree), has its moments of giddy goodness. But I found myself wishing for just a tad more identity, period. This all-ages show is a CD-release party. CALIFONE, MOVIOLA 4/15, SCHUBAS The band that once was Red Red Meat (and still is whenever a special occasion compels a reunion) hasn’t broken up so much as splintered. Of the various resulting projects, probably the strongest is Tim Rutili and Ben Massarella’s Califone, whose new EP is on the Road Cone label, where they’re in good company among fellow onto-something oddballs like Loren MazzaCane Connors and Jackie-O Motherfucker. With help from Red Red Meat bandmates Tim Hurley and Brian Deck, they thump, pluck, hum, and murmur through disjointed atmospheric pop and cracked Appalachianisms–“Dock Boggs” is very loosely based on a tune by the eponymous banjoist. The live lineup will include drummer Deck, bassist Matt Fields (Those Bastard Souls), and guitarist Eric Johnson (Paulina Hollers). The Columbus quartet Moviola–with music writer Jerry Dannemiller and Ted Hattemer, also of Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments–are sort of like their hometown: a little bit country, a little bit college. They’ve drawn comparisons to the Grifters and Luna, but the strangled longing vocals and doodly arrangemental seductions on their fourth album, The Durable Dream, often remind me of Built to Spill, and “Call My Work” features Byrdsy harmonies and pedal steel. It’s awfully agreeable when it’s on, but this kind of stuff stops just short of sticking with me–it always sounds like it’s hedging its bets. Moviola also plays at 3 PM at Borders on Michigan. CURTIS MAYFIELD TRIBUTE 4/15, THE HIDEOUT One of the few things about the turn of the century that actually felt millennial was the December 26 death of Curtis Mayfield, the soul great and son of Cabrini-Green who helped define great black pop music in the 60s and 70s–and by extension the next two decades as well. In declining health since 1990, when a lighting scaffold fell on him, paralyzing him from the neck down, the tireless songwriter, singer, arranger, and producer tried to keep going right up until his last months. A few other cities where his presence was deeply felt–New York, LA, Atlanta–have organized star-studded galas in his memory, but in Chicago it’s fallen to scrappy indie types, including Kelly Hogan and Andy Hopkins, Rebecca Gates and Jeff Parker, Lambchop’s Deanna Varagona, critic James Porter’s band Hoodoo Hoedown, and Robert Cornelius. Proceeds will benefit the drum corps at Cabrini-Green’s Sojourner Truth school. LESTER BANGS MEMORIAL TRIBUTE BAND 4/15, EMPTY BOTTLE Jim DeRogatis’s new book, Let It Blurt: The Life & Times of Lester Bangs, America’s Greatest Rock Critic, is more than just a biography of the late great rock writer. It’s a portrait of an era and a faith that we’ll never see again. Though he made fun of himself for it constantly, Bangs was one of the last true believers in rock ‘n’ roll’s capacity to move people–to unite or divide them (“We will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis,” he wrote in his obligatory Presley eulogy, which predicted the subcultural fragmentation we have today), to illuminate their lives or destroy them. He treated a great record like a divine visitation and lashed out at his heroes when they let him down as if God himself had abandoned him. His story–and his writing, the best of which does justify the subtitle–is both inspiration and cautionary tale. The Lester Bangs Memorial Tribute Band, which features DeRogatis on drums, former Cool Hat editor Brian Beck on bass, Trib contributor Steve Knopper on keyboards, and Reader staffers J.R. Jones and Kiki Yablon on guitars, with vocal help from the ubiquitous Jon Langford, will play a set of songs by and important to Bangs. Also on the bill are Busker Soundcheck (as the self-explanatory Black Stabbath) and Loraxx. BYO Robitussin. MELVINS 4/15, METRO The latest release from these heavy weirdos is The Crybaby, the final installment in a high-concept trilogy for Mike Patton’s Ipecac label. The host of special guests here–many of whom play on songs they wrote or helped write–includes David Yow, singing a cover of the Jesus Lizard’s “Blockbuster,” Hank Williams III, who sings his grandpa’s “Ramblin’ Man” and Merle Haggard’s “Okee From Muskogee,” the Pain Teens’ Bliss Blood, Helmet’s Henry Bogdan, Foetus’s Jim Thirlwell, and faded teen idol Leif Garrett, who sings (and enunciates eerily on) “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” And all of them are transformed by some perverse alchemy into Melvins-for-the-moment. Two sets, no opener, all ages. TARA JANE O’NEIL 4/18, SCHUBAS Considering Rodan as something of a neutral, the lovely, fragile Sonora Pine as a plus, and the tedious, precious Retsin as a minus, I guess I’d been reserving final judgment for when mistress of understatement Tara Jane O’Neil would finally step out on her own. Well, maybe it’s that I’ve just moved into a very small apartment, like the New York pads her mostly acoustic solo debut, Peregrine (Quarterstick), was recorded in, but in between being jerked around by utility companies and repairmen in my candlelit and curtained little space, I’ve been listening to this record more than anything except maybe this Ted Nugent compilation I picked up. Violinist Samara Lubelski, who helped make Sonora Pine’s magic, is a sizable factor in its brittle swing and sway, as are Gold Sparkle Band drummer Andrew Barker and Ida guitarist Dan Littleton. O’Neil still sounds shy to the point of solipsism, but the relative sophistication of this record, not to mention its lacey tunefulness, make her seem less self-conscious than self-contained. And self-containment certainly has its place. JAZZ BUTCHER CONSPIRACY 4/20, SCHUBAS A new Jazz Butcher album was not high on my list of priorities for the year 2000, but I’m actually glad the new live Glorious and Idiotic (ROIR) exists. I’d forgotten, as I imagine many people had, the underhanded wit of British songwriter Pat Fish and his guitarist sidekick Max Eider, who made cult classics like A Scandal in Bohemia and Distressed Gentlefolk, occasionally with help from David J and Kevin Haskins, moonlighting from Love and Rockets. While a little bit of Fish’s relentless cleverness goes a really, really long way, droll swipes at pop culture and the hipster life like “Partytime,” “Caroline Wheeler’s Birthday Present,” and “Drink” (“My oh my / We can’t compete / It’s only heavy drinking that keeps us on our feet / My oh my / We can’t complain / If it weren’t for heavy drinking we’d never play ‘Sweet Jane'”) bring back a buzz that’s more than mere nostalgia.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Cynthia Nelson.