Mickey’s new record Rock n Roll Dreamer is now available online for anyone who didn’t pick one up at Hozac’s Blackout Fest. You can listen to the first track from the album, “For You,” here. If it’s any indication of the rest of Rock’ n Roll Dreamer, prepare yourself for shockingly clean, yet gracefully trashy glam perfection, equipped with a stutter.
I recently came across Squat the Condos via Chicago Mix Tape. The 7 song We Should Be Together is a fun sample of 60s bubblegum pop by way of 90s geekery. You can download We Should Be Together for free on the band’s Bandcamp page.
“Don’t you guys have any freaks or weirdos in Chicago,” Growlers’ lead singer Brooks Nielsen sarcastically asked last night’s Empty Bottle Crowd after a fan flamboyantly danced on stage halfway through their set. Nielsen later requested his “gay back-up dancer” before fittingly going into their song “Gay Thoughts.” Dancing was a regular occurrence throughout the Growlers’ set, culminating in 10-15 fans, including 3 Secret Colours, walking on stage to dance out the second to last song.
The Growlers were confidently awkward in front of a large Empty Bottle Crowd, a step up from last year’s Chicago visit to Ronny’s. Though nearly every song of their dirt psych surf set sounded similar to the last, as I said to a friend beside me, “It’s a great song.” Once they had finished their set, the Growlers mingled with members of the crowd and then, I’m assuming, got back into their rickety bus with the basketball hoop nailed to the back (I have to assume that was their bus).
The highlight of the night for me, however was the Hussy’s set. Their recent LP Cement Tomb Mind Control has been in regular rotation for me, and I told several friends to arrive early to see their set.
The Hussy are a two-piece noisy garage act whose songs live pack more energy and if it’s possible seem even shorter than they do on recording. Similarly to Ty Segall, the Hussy are loud live, but unlike Ty, singer and guitarist Bobby Hussy knows how to balance his love of noise and his respect for the audience’s collective eardrum (my ears continued to ring 3 days after seeing Ty at the Empty Bottle).
I first heard Distractions’ “We Were Better Off in the Rain” when they released it as a single earlier this year. On it’s own, it’s instantly catchy and a giant wall of sound, but little did I know it was just a small sample of one of the most intricate pop albums to come around in a long while.
Dark Green Sea is as ambitious as it is strange. Singer and songwriter, Tom Owens comes off as a baritoned Brian Wilson and Dark Green Sea is slightly more operatic than the Beach Boys on their superficially comparable Pet Sounds. This album has so many movements, it’s difficult to tell where one song ends and the other begins.
There’s two sides to Dark Green Sea. There’s the undeniable pop elements of a song like “You Were There Always Up All Night,” that begins as simple, fast-paced sunny pop, before splitting at the seams and turning to the bizarre Chicago by-way-of Dr. Dog-style horn section. None of these pop songs on Dark Green Sea are left untainted by the strange hands of Distractions, and I mean that to be a compliment.
Though not a concept album, Dark Green Sea does steadily maintain a mood of unease and absurdity throughout. I couldn’t help imagining, as I listened, a darkly comical, yet oddly scary, underwater sea cruise with Distractions as the nightly lounge act.
Distractions on Giant System:
Hozac says they received Eric & the Happy Thoughts’ (now just the Happy Thoughts) debut LP late last summer, but waited nearly a year to release it because it “seemed unfair to release it in the Fall or Winter months.” It takes about 10 seconds of listening to the first taste of the LP, “One More Fish,” to see why this is a good move both from an aesthetic and marketing standpoint. “One More Fish,” as well as several other songs that can be heard on the band’s myspace page (“Indiana Girls” especially) are equally hi-hat heavy, sunshiny bubblegum gems that have the power to bring even the cynics back to that place and time where they were once naively happy.
Rabble Rabble used to be the band that showed up on just about every single good bill in Chicago. Then they were the band that documented their trip to Austin, TX, giving us one SXSW vlog a day. As if they weren’t already the hardest working band in Chicago (didn’t they just release a live LP in March?), now Rabble Rabble is finally going to be the band that takes over your record player.
During their tour of the east coast last summer, Rabble Rabble recorded two songs at Gimme That Sound Studios. The resulting 7″ will be released on May 23rd at the Empty Bottle.
Now, I’ve never been overly impressed with Rabble Rabble’s recordings; I think they have much more to offer in a live setting. But the new 7″ from Chicago’s psych poster boys (and girl) is a different story. The lead off track “Why Not?” gives listeners that same psychotic psychedelia they’ve come to know and love from Rabble Rabble, but this time in a more controlled environment. ”Why Not?” would feel right at home in any movie chase scene (think Duel on Acid).
The b-side, “Long Hook” sounds like a lost track from the Kinks’, Village Green Preservation Society, but on speed and a whole bunch more acid. Though most of the song is sung through three-piece chants, the lead vocals even sound like Dave Davies on this one.
Be sure to pick up a copy of Rabble Rabble’s new 7″ at the Empty Bottle on May 23rd with Distractions and We Are Hex
BIGCOLOUR has recently released a video, directed by Kayla Kane, for their song “Somnabulist Bop,” a song that the band says will be on an upcoming release of the same name. Both the song and video carry a dreamlike quality fitting to the song’s title (Somnabulism is another word for sleepwalking). The words are as equally indistinguishable as the images that move in and out of focus. The song itself follows the same atmospheric formula present in BIGCOLOUR’s previous releases, and singer, Brian Brissart still finds a way to pack more poetic words in each line than you would think humanly possible.
The first thing I noticed about the new Hussy LP, Cement Tomb Mind Control, before I even began listening was the length of the songs. Just two tracks reach the 2 minute mark, leaving the rest somewhere between 49 seconds and 1:59. “When we started as a band,” says Bobby Hussy, who plays guitar and sings on a large portion of the LP, “we wrote songs that came naturally and they’ve always been short bursts of pop mixed in with garage/punk/noise, and we sorta found our sound through that structure.” “I would rather have someone wanting more of something than getting too much and bored with a song,” adds Heather Sawyer, drummer and 2nd singer of the Madison duo.
Perhaps there’s something in Sawyer’s statement. The first song I heard off of Cement Tomb Mind Control was “Sexi Ladi,” a quick burst of 60s energetic pop equipped with summer sun and holding hands. The song could not be contained to just one listen, not even two or three. With each repeated listen, I found myself falling more and more in love with it. Had it been three or four minutes, I doubt I would have had the stamina, nor the desire to stick with it for so long.
The LP starts off with the angry Stooges-style rant, “I’m Me.” “Go fuck yourself,” sings the duo in unison, not even giving the detestable subject of the song the satisfaction of a full 2 minutes of their attention, cutting out at 1:58. There’s an urgency, not just musically in this LP. There’s not much The Hussy care to have you hear lyrically, drowning the words out in a whirl of fuzz. But when they have something to say, they make sure you hear it. “Let’s get it on,” Sawyer yells in “Baby Child.” Similarly, the whistles come in crystal clearly in an otherwise distortion-drenched “Wrong/Right.”
“Demon Claus” breaks the Hussy mold set in the first four songs of Cement Tomb. A bit lighter on the fuzz and not quite as into the red, this song ditches the fast-paced, upbeat pop of “Sexi Ladi,” and welcomes all things dark, both in the subject matter and the Jay Reatard by way of Electric Prunes approach to garage.
Both members of this Madison duo bring equally powerful vocals and song writing chops to this LP. Though Cement Tomb Mind Control lags a bit near the middle with songs like “Pavement” and “Oh No” not quite carrying as much weight as songs like “Have a Say” or “I’m Me,” it’s definitely one of the best releases so far this year.
I recently talked to Bobby and Heather of the Hussy about the new LP, the Wisconsin music scene, and mistaken lyrics. Read on for the full interview, and be sure to check them out Saturday, May 14th at WHPK’s Summer Breeze Festival held at the University of Chicago Commons. The Hussy will also be playing with The Growlers at the Empty Bottle on May 26th.
1. When I interviewed Slushy, we talked about walking that line between pop music and being sloppy, which you guys seem to take even further (that’s a good thing). Why do you think that formula works so well?
Bobby: Yeah I think pop music that’s played live doesn’t have to have perfection to be relate-able, I don’t necessarily think we purposefully try to sound sloppy, but that happens sometimes. When we play live we tend to try to keep it pretty tight since there’s only two people on stage and when a two-piece get’s outta sync it’s a bit harder to handle than a 4 piece getting real loose. But yeah I agree, some of my favorite shows I’ve seen have been sloppier/messier shows.
Heather: i think it works cause sloppy=fun. and i like having fun.
2. The new LP doesn’t have a single song that reaches 3 minutes. Was it intentional that these songs sort of get in and get out, or is that just how it happened?
Bobby: When we started as a band we wrote songs that came naturally and they’ve always been short bursts of pop mixed in with garage/punk/noise, and we sorta found our sound through that structure. I’ll let Heather elaborate on that…
Heather: it wasn’t intentional on my part at all. it’s just what happens when we write songs. i would rather have someone wanting more of something than getting too much and bored with a song. we just write short songs.
3. I noticed you both sing. What’s the songwriting process like? Do you both write songs separately? Do you collaborate? Or is it just one of you?
Bobby: We both write songs. Sometimes I’ll bring a riff in with a certain melody, and Heather will play off the melody with her own, and then we’ll just see what we can put together for a chorus that brings the level up and really just what comes naturally or spontaneously. And other times, Heather or I will bring a song in that’s complete and we’ll just perfect the way it works between the two of us. Heather, how do you see it?
Heather: pretty much what bobby said. we write seperately and together. some songs are all one persons and sometimes the verses will be bobby’s and the choruses mine or vice versa.
4. What’s the recording process like? Has it changed for this new LP?
Bobby: The recording process for this LP HAS changed drastically. Previously we worked in real studios with engineers and under tight time restraints, and we typically finished anywhere from 6 to 9 songs in 8 to 12 hours (from the point of recording to mixing, everything). For this LP I did the recording over the course of 4 months in a basement in Madison and in my apartment there. We then mixed it with our friend from Madison, Todd Ostertag and then Justin Perkins mastered it like he does for everything we do.
Heather: i like that we record everything ourselves now. we do what we want and i can’t wait to record new stuff. like bobby said, the old stuff was recorded in studios and it was such a rush to get stuff done cause that just gets really expensive.
5. Do you think being a 2-piece limits you or gives you more freedom?
Bobby: Yeah. Can’t get too drunk before shows or things get a little too loose for my liking, Right heather?
Heather: yeah. i like the freedom of only having 2 people on stage gives you. i don’t find it limiting really.
6. What’s the story about the message in “Peace, Bro?”
Bobby: HA! Well I was at a friend of mine’s apartment, Matt from the Midwest Beat, and he got a call but he doesn’t like to answer calls without seeing who they are first, so he just let it go to the answering machine. And then Chris also from the Midwest Beat just started rambling about an e-mail that Matt wanted to send to someone that they were discussing (because it dealt with the Midwest Beat). But the whole time Chris was just acting like he was totally baked, so at the end he said “Peace, Bro” and I instantly told Matt he had to save that message for me for something. And then we created a song around it.
Heather: it’s our friend chris leaving messages on our friend matt’s answering machine. it was a funny message so we had to use it.
7. Who are some of your influences?
Bobby: Current and Semi-Current influences for me include Sex Church, Black Time, Jay Reatard, most of the other shit In The Red puts out, The Catholic Boys…I really like Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall (especially what they bring to the table live). As for old influences….The Beatles, The Stones, BOC, Love Battery, Verbena, etc…
Heather: i love catholic boys, ty segall, thee oh sees, jay reatard, beatles, so on and so forth.
8. What’s the garage scene like in Wisconsin?
Bobby: I think it’s pretty healthy. There’s a lot more garage going on in Milwaukee than in Madison, that’s for sure. I dig on Head on Electric, The Midwest Beat, Trent Fox and the Tenants, and the now defunct Goodnight Loving, all from Milwaukee. In Madison I dig on what Dead Luke, The Midwest Beat (half from Madison, Half from Milwaukee) and the Honey Slides are doing. There’s a really good venue/scene up in Appleton that deserves more attention to. It’s all based around this one house show venue, the Vault.
Heather: Yeah, Milwaukee is a great scene! Lots of good bands and always good ones starting up too. It’s always fun to play there.
9. When CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising” came out, the lyric, “There’s a bad moon on the rise” was mistaken for “There’s a bathroom on the right,” which leads me to a question I have to ask: Are you saying, “Sodomy” in “I’m me?”
Bobby: I wish. That’s more absurd and honestly better. I guess the lyric insert in the Hussy LP will put that to rest once and for all! I think the lyric yr thinking of is probably “Silently…” but I’m not sure….haha.
Heather: it’s not. but i can guarantee you that it will be from now on.
I have a tendency to build my heroes up in my mind to a point where they could not possibly meet my expectations. It happened the first time I saw Bob Dylan in concert. I watched as he dropped his harmonica mid-song and kicked it across the stage in an attempt to bend over and pick it up. Then there was Jack White. He played just fine I’m sure, but I had made him into such a myth-like figure that I don’t think anything he did could have satisfied my impossible standards, and so I left unsatisfied. Since those encounters, I’ve made myself unavailable when certain people come to Chicago. So it was no surprise that when Thursday night rolled around, I told my friends, who had made plans to go with me days earlier, I was “too tired” to go. Thankfully, they didn’t buy it.
As we walked into the Empty Bottle, Last Year’s Men, from Chapel Hill, was just about ready to start. They had the recklessness of the Black Lips, though they seemed more in touch with their influences (I’m assuming The Seeds and maybe DC5?). They finished their set, tackling each other on stage during the final song.
With what seemed like a 5 minute wait, Greg Cartwright and the rest of the Reigning Sound popped out of a door that read “Bands Only,” and walked to the stage. From the very first second they plugged in, the requests came pouring out. “Stormy Weather” is clearly the fan favorite. The set list for me is a giant blur, which I can only attribute to the $2.50 Old Styles, but the Reigning Sound played several songs off of Too Much Guitar, my favorite album of any Greg Cartwright project. It took only a moment for Greg Cartwright the myth to exit and for The Reigning Sound to enter. With his spastic head shake, Greg ripped through just about every Reigning Sound song a fan could want to hear, as well as a few favorites from his past bands, The Compulsive Gamblers (“Stop and Think It Over”) and The Oblivians (“Bad Man”).
One thing that was missed in an otherwise flawless set was the backup singing on songs like “Stormy Weather” and “Your Love Is a Fine Thing,” but the packed Empty Bottle crowd was obliged to help out.
When they had finished their set, Greg went back through the “Bands Only” door from which he came, leaving the other two members mingling with friends in the crowd. I took the opportunity to throw in a request to the bass player, David Wayne Gay. I asked for “If You Can’t Give Me Everything” during the encore. His response showed me that even Greg’s bandmates put him on a pedestal. He said, “You need to talk to the man with the guitar. I’ll tell him, but we haven’t played that one in a long time.” They didn’t play it, but I have little to complain about.
If the cheapest seats weren’t over $100, I might now have the nerve to see Elvis Costello in May.