“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.
The Happy Thoughts-One More Fish
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.