Though longtime fans will debate whether Screeching Weasel is really still Screeching Weasel without John "Jughead" Pierson in the band, no one will deny that the group not only is one of the finest as well as the longest-running punk bands that Chicago has ever produced, but it's been one of the most influential in the U.S. in general throughout the last two decades, inspiring myriad pop-punk groups that have followed in its snotty but tuneful wake.
When I first caught the formerly Chicago, now Traverse City, Michigan-based trio Salem at the Biz 3 showcase at South by Southwest last March, I was struck by the fact that I hadn’t seen an electronic group so polarize an audience since Suicide back in the day. The dense, difficult, sludgy, but sexy sound was simultaneously alienating and seductive, with elements of trip-hop, gothic darkwave, classical chorale music, Southern hip-hop, and electronic pop.
The group breaks no ground on “Wilderness Heart,” but that’s not what it’s about. These 10 tracks are a loving homage to a dazed and confused era of massive fuzz and feedback, thundering drums, a mood of ponderous, portentious doom and gloom bordering on the near-apocalyptic, and riffs, man, riffs.
From the point of view of the musician onstage, there can be no better sight than to look out mid-song and see a throng of people dancing.
On a good night, when the band is in synch and firing on all cylinders, the non-verbal communication between members locked into the same rhythms, anticipating one another’s next moves and simultaneously reacting to and spurring them on, is the most intimate exchange that people can have outside of sex.
When listeners are dancing in response to these sounds, this deep and visceral connection extends into the audience, the feedback loop expands, and the energy swap grows ever more intense.
You play harder, tighter, maybe a bit faster, and certainly with more spirit. You have to: The dancers depend on it.
Aside from the vast back catalog, which remains one of the richest in rock history, and his astounding energy as a live performer, which persists even as he approaches his 65th birthday next month, the most inspiring thing about Neil Young is that he differs from so many of the other legends of his generation by his refusing to rest on his laurels, consistently challenging himself and his audience by pushing to innovate five decades on.
As noted in an update Wednesday afternoon to Monday's blog post about Lollapalooza not paying city taxes, Department of Revenue spokesman Ed Walsh emailed to say that my reading of the Municipal Code was wrong -- and by no means is that a hard thing to do -- and I cited an incorrect figure for the taxes that a concert like Lollapalooza should be paying.
Nine studio albums into a career that began in Glasgow, Scotland, way back at the dawn of the '90s, and which provided one of the enduring masterpieces of that decade with the timeless, endlessly chiming, Big Star-inspired power-pop of "Bandwagonesque," it is all too easily to take Teenage Fanclub for granted. (Are they, like, even still around, man?)