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Last night, I stood outside the Beat Kitchen, as I have many times before, waiting for my best beer-hero buddy John Duggan to ride up Belmont Avenue. It was already a good night, because any night that starts with a can of Hamm’s is going to be special. Tonight we were seeing the much-hyped (with good reason) Minneapolis punk band, Off With Their Heads.
Off With Their Heads is a project based around Ryan Young, whose songs covers familiar topics, such as heartbreak, depression and drug used, but manages to tackle it all in a fresh and self deprecating manner. Unlike other bands that can be classified as “pop punk” or “beard punk,” Off With Their Heads comes out swinging with a “no bullshit,” dark and often times unsettling set of punches, to the tune of familiar pop hooks. The lazy comparison would be to call them the middle ground between Rivithead and J Church. I tend to see them as the band that makes depression fun again.
The show started off with Mundelein Illinois’ young upstarts, the Please and Thank Yous, who whether they know it or not were playing chords straight from the handbook written by Cringer and Jawbreaker. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, as these are two of my all time favorite bands. Their set was short and favorably rough around the edges, just the way any young punk band should be.
Following them was the Vicelords (not to be confused with the Chicago street gang of the same name), which was an all-star band of sorts. Featuring members of current Chicago punk bands Vacation Bible School and the Brokedowns and fronted by veteran Chicago punk front man and ex-Apocalypse Hoboken singer, Todd Pot. Their sound was equal parts Easy Instructions for Complex Machinery era Apocalypse Hoboken and drugged out psych-punk. This was my first time seeing these guys and I was equally impressed and left wanting a few more songs. Todd Pot still has one of the best, most unique voices in punk rock.
Finally, rounding out the evening was Off With Their Heads. They played a healthy blend of older songs and newer songs, mixing in limited witty banter and beer soaked sing-a-longs. What I found most surprising about the show is that their Chicago following has grown a bit since last I saw them. Previously, I saw them at the same venue playing with semi-known locals, but ended up playing to a room that was only a quarter full. The audience this time around was far more receptive and slightly younger. The space was a little over half full, so roughly a hundred heads in the room. It felt good seeing them receive a positive response here, as often bands of their size, regardless of how much a Chicago audience likes a band, will simply fold their arms, bob their heads and politely clap at the end of the song. Seeing the Beat Kitchen transformed into a “moshitorium” for a band that isn’t a local hardcore band was refreshing.
I think what strikes me the most about Off With Their Heads lyrics is that Young says (and quite possibly acts out) things we’ve all felt, but rarely had the courage to say out loud. We’ve all been through break ups where we thought that maybe putting a brick through your ex’s window would be a good idea, but better judgment kicks in and instead you throw yourself a one person pity-party and listen to Morrissey all night. Young straight up says it in their song Horse Pills and the Apartment Lobby, leaving you under the impression that there’s a pretty good chance that the content of the song actually happened. The honest lyrics are really only part of the equation though.
Although their songs are based off of the rudimentary punk rock formula, they do what great pop song writers have been doing for years. They take a familiar formula and reinvent it in a new and interesting way. Darker, high gain guitar tones similar to their fellow Minneapolis punks, Dillinger Four and Rivithead, recorded to sound like Sorry Ma era Replacements, tossing in the honesty of Jawbreaker and using the chord progressions made famous by bands like the Ramones and Dead Boys. Not that this is a hard-fact formula, because listening to their first record, Hospitals and then comparing it to their most recent album, From the Bottom, you see a progression of a band who might show its influences, but just as soon tears them down.
Off With Their Heads is one of the best things going in punk rock right now, so if you haven’t gotten on board yet, you probably should. They’re currently embarking on a European tour, but will be back in Chicago April 1st at Ronny’s.
Big fun! The CHIRP Record Fair and Other Delights returns for a 7th year…but this time, we’re in a brand new location — the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union, 1340 W. Washington Blvd. We’re extremely excited about our new home — all dealers will be in one big room, and we even have a parking lot! In addition to all the great vinyl dealers, live music and DJs, and tasty food, we’ll have some added fun and games this year, details TBA.
Mark your calendars for April 18th and 19th, because it’s going to be a good time!
By the way, if you’re sitting in a vinyl or CD collection that you no longer want, the CHIRP Record Fair is a great time to rid yourself of unwanted music. You have two options — rent a table from us and make a bit of extra money selling your wares, or, if you don’t feel like going to that trouble, donate your collection to CHIRP, and we’ll take care of the rest.
If you’re interested in being a dealer, you can download the contract here. If you want to donate you collection, e-mail chirp (at) chicagoindependentradioproject.org.
What could be more punk rock than a St George and the Dragon inspired suit of armor made entirely of punk rock records from 1986? How about 100 black vinyl skulls forged from the top hits of the same year? Sounds pretty righteous!
Check out the video below to see Artist Ted Riederer’s process from studio to gallery.
via Current, Nylvi
I’ve been getting my dose of internet humor almost solely from a few blogs recently: It’s Lovely, I’ll Take It!, which is all about disturbing real estate listings, Vintage Microwave, which is all about disturbing free stuff on Craigslist, the “blog” of “unnecessary” quotations marks which, well… and finally, Passive Aggressive Notes, a blog dedicated to collecting and posting “painfully polite and hilariously hostile writings from shared spaces the world over.”
Some recent gems from P.A. Notes include this snippet of fashion advice for the ladies, and this back and forth taped to a candy machine.
My downstairs neighbor’s dog has been barking for weeks, but because of my now hyper-awareness of the hilarity and ineffectiveness of taped-up notes, I’ve been waiting for a good time to talk to her face-to-face about it. I’m not the kind of person who leaves passive aggressive notes, I say to myself.
Then my friend Nate brought this P.A. posting to my attention:
top five musical crimes perpetuated by record store customers in the 90s and 2000s
Aaaah! I never worked in a record store (well, I did, it just wasn’t the kind you could tape notes up in), but I did spent a stint as an angry bookstore clerk in Wicker Park (oh, you know where). The store had many arbitrary rules (no photography, no cell phones, re-shelve the books or we charge a one-dollar re-shelving fee), which necessitated the posting of many passive aggressive signs, several of which I myself wrote!
At the time I didn’t think my notes crossed the line, but with a few years’ distance, I can see them for what they truly are: passive aggressive. (My current favorite note, which didn’t exist while I worked there, is this posting about the photography rule, with a passive aggressive nod to customers’ Flickr accounts.)
Nevertheless, I have to say I savor the stereotypical rudeness — written or otherwise — I encounter in mom and pop shops. For what is Reckless Records without the constant debate over whether the clerk on the other side of the counter is rolling his eyes at you? (I’m not making this up: search the Yelp listing for the word “judgmental” or “holier-than-thou” and see for yourself.)
So I say long live record store P.A.! Record shopping is just a little too sterile without it.
Amidst all the RIP notices (Lux Interior, Blossom Dearie, Touch & GO Distro…..) I thought maybe we should post something a bit more upbeat. My good friend Chris Sienko recently tracked down the final two Roland Kirk albums that he was missing for his collection, and emailed me about an article he wrote about Kirk for Blastitude.
As he describes it, “The article contains 28 capsule reviews of Kirk’s canonical albums (not counting bootlegs or posthumous CDs released after his death). It is originally sourced from two lengthy emails sent to Blastitude’s editor-in-chief, Larry Dolman, explaining what I had been listening to obsessively for the last 8 months or so. If it reads like a breathless, middle-of-the-night email, that’s because it basically is (cleaned up a bit and augmented later for print-readiness).”
Definitely well worth a read, and if you haven’t heard Kirk’s “Domino”, I suggest you do yourself a favor and check it out!