PALE SAINTS 11/11, DOUBLE DOOR Pale Saints have weathered quite a few changes on the ever-shifting barometer of English pop tastes. On their new Slow Buildings (4AD), they remain invested in a dreamy melodicism capped by the sweet, semiethereal vocals of guitarist Meriel Barham, but where many similarly inclined British bands (like label mates Lush) get stuck on sound, this smart combo put their songs first. The intriguing, difficult Lisa Germano and locals Dolly Varden open. CRAMPS 11/11, VIC It’s hard to imagine outsider rockabilly–from Southern Culture on the Skids to the Reverend Horton Heat–existing without the Cramps. But while the smutty subject matter and lewd gyrations of Lux Interior, Poison Ivy, and a shuffling support cast have remained a constant since the late 70s, the psychotic sounds of their psychobilly machinations have grown increasingly predictable and tame. On Flamejob (Medicine), their first new album in three years, they sound like the Cramps again, but where there was once a demented urgency there’s now a sleepily perfected execution. While the live show will surely feature lots of ghoulish Iggy Pop stage mannerisms (including crotch grinding and floor swimming by Interior), a little musical edge would be more welcome. Gas Huffer open. SONNY FORTUNE QUARTET 11/11, PARK WEST On his recently released Four in One (Blue Note), a rousing collection of Thelonious Monk workhorses, saxophonist Sonny Fortune takes an impressive step toward the mainstream spotlight. A veteran of bands led by Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, and Elvin Jones and possessed of astounding technical facility, Fortune and his group for this appearance–pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Buster Williams, and drummer Ben Riley, a longtime member of Monk’s late groups–prove that repertoire exercises need not be predictable. Unfettered by formalism though not exactly pushing the envelope, Fortune’s playing bristles with energy and spark, offering as fine an example of contemporary postbop as one can hear in 1994. The Tommy Flanagan Trio headlines. EUGENE CHADBOURNE 11/11 & 12, LUNAR CABARET A pair of stunning guitar improvisations a year or two ago, appropriately titled Strings and Songs (both on the Swiss Intakt label), handily proved that Eugene Chadbourne remains a top-flight improviser, stricken with a sizzling restlessness and bent humor. That’s something to keep in mind during Chadbourne’s maniacal live performances, musical expositions that employ incessant, often wicked satire–political, social, and musical–and often seem like intentional self-sabotage. Either your sides will ache with laughter while his uncanny musical skills slip right by, or your head will pound from this guy’s absurdist shtick, which includes a lengthy session on the electric rake. These are Chadbourne’s first Chicago appearances in several years. Quintron, a new “persona” for Math’s raggedy and gangly Robert Rolston, opens. FIFTH COLUMN 11/13, EMPTY BOTTLE On their third album, 36C (K), these queer rockers from Toronto continue to confound both musical and lyrical expectations with a nonchalant restlessness that finds them switching from grinding punk rock (“All Women Are Bitches”) to the surging pop hooks that lace “Donna,” a paean to semilegendary Pacific Northwest rocker Donna Dresch, who’s played on again, off again with Fifth Column. Vocalist Caroline Azar delivers barbed lyrics both seething and enigmatic, and the lineup also includes guitarist G.B. Jones, a noted underground filmmaker and publisher of the now-defunct but prescient queer ‘zine J.D.’s. El Nino open; this marks the two-year anniversary of Homocore Chicago, whose very first show also featured Fifth Column. JEFFERY GAINES 11/16, SCHUBAS On his second album, Somewhat Slightly Dazed (Chrysalis), Jeffery Gaines comes off as a strange variation on the singer-songwriter. He favors ringing electric guitars and full-bodied rock, and he’s clearly indebted to Elvis Costello’s melodic sensibilities and raspy phrasing, serpentining through the day-to-day travails of male-female relations in a baker’s dozen tunes. His earnestness often threatens to smother his musicality, but the album’s lack of instrumental grandiosity keeps the hanging rope mostly out of sight. He plays
with Paula Cole. DIAMANDA GALAS & JOHN PAUL JONES 11/17, VIC On her recent collaboration with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, The Sporting Life (Mute), vocal extremist Diamanda Galas inches closer to straight hard rock and conventional song structures. While her earliest work swarmed with ear-piercing screams, demonic speaking-in-tongues, and mostly wordless flights of dreadful fancy, for the last decade she’s focused on her lyrics–specifically about life’s ugly side, most specifically the wrath of AIDS–lacing her unsettling texts with biblical allusion and jarring, visceral imagery. Pete Thomas, former drummer for Elvis Costello’s Attractions, fills the John Bonham role; the album is anchored by the commanding bass lines of Jones, over which Galas blends unsavory dialogues with wheezing, wailing, possessed whispering, and mass confusion. When not swinging through Zeppelin-esque grooves, Galas continues to flirt with gospelish material, including a sublime treatment of the timeless James Carr vehicle “At the Dark End of the Street.” MARISA MONTE 11/17, FIRST CHICAGO CENTER On her new album Rose and Charcoal (Metro Blue), Brazilian pop singer Marisa Monte further melts the distinctions between her native sounds and slick American pop. Monte’s sweet vocals float through sumptuous if vacuous musical landscapes like a cloud; if it wasn’t for the deceptive rhythmic complexity it would seem that she was trying to lull us to sleep. Tackling the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” as a torch song, Monte seems hell-bent on some kind of odd crossover action, but who it’s aimed at is anyone’s guess. This is her Chicago debut.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jeff Glancz.