Hardly any American rock band gives less of a fuck about listener expectations than the Sun City Girls. For more than two decades Rick and Alan Bishop and Charlie Gocher have followed their own illogical muse, building a catalog of more than two dozen full-length albums (most of them hard to find) that gives new meaning to the term stylistic reach. Lots of the group’s music is painfully self-indulgent–a double CD called Dante’s Disneyland Inferno (released on the band’s own Abduction label in 1996) is dominated by Gocher’s lunatic ravings and absurdist comedy. But when you decide that anything and everything is fair game, as these guys have, you’re going to stray into some occasional excess. The trio started out in Tempe, Arizona, in the early 80s as an oddball presence on the hardcore scene. On albums like Grotto of Miracles (Placebo, 1986) their wiggy instrumentals were flavored by surf rock, jazz, and noise, and would give way to pummeling art rock, nonsensical rants, and meandering improvisation. They spent most of the late 80s making limited-edition cassette releases and immersing themselves in the music of Southeast Asia. Members made–and still make–regular sojourns there; Libyan Dream was initially released in an edition of 50 tapes that were “dropped in cassette vendors’ racks in various cities throughout SE Asia in 1993.” The Sun City Girls began a new phase in 1990, when they moved to Seattle and released Torch of the Mystics (Majora), a showcase for their invented and entirely sui generis Asian-rock hybrid. Since then their material has been all over the map–pure noise blasts, covers of Asian pop and traditional music, Fugs-ish folk rock, Sun Ra-inspired space rock, rambling spoken-word marathons, and gnarled improv. The group’s rare live gigs are as unpredictable as their albums: for a San Francisco show in 1992 the band members simply played a tape of chirping crickets, performed skits, and ground marshmallows into the floor with their feet. But at Lower Links in the early 90s I witnessed one of the most transcendent rock shows I’d ever seen as the band expanded its Asian-rock tunes with beautiful stretches of improvised psychedelia. I don’t have the faintest idea what to expect for the group’s first Chicago performance in a decade, but I wouldn’t miss it for anything. Friday, November 15, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Toby Dodds.