Weekly Wire
NewCityNet CD Interest

By Dave Chamberlain

MARCH 1, 1999:  This past Tuesday marked a huge day for the national record industry. Bigtime artists, bigtime releases. Whatever. If you're interested, the only real record of consequence (aside from y'all who are into Built to Spill) is Sleater-Kinney's third full-length record, "The Hot Rock." Ignore the ads, the rest is all hype. And as if mystically timed (wink) to coincide with Super Tuesday, a bevy of local releases - many of which are already out on the streets but just recently found their way into my CD player - have graced the bins of Chicago record stores. Nothing brilliant, but deserving of mention regardless.

Butterfat Mastermind, "Slaveplanet Diaries" (Slaveplanet Records)

For a long time I made the mistake of grouping Butterfat Mastermind with the legions of bar bands that seem to curse me. (Butterfat Mastermind is too damn close to Butterfly McQueen, one of those aforementioned cursing bands.) My bad. Butterfat Mastermind is a Chicago trio who apparently are way into sub-genre-jumping rock. "Slaveplanet Diaries" runs a gamut from straight-forward melodic pop ("Can't Feel My Legs") to trippy, Kyuss-like protometal ("I Am God"). Most of guitarist-lead vocalist Stephen Sunner's string work is loud and heavy, distorted in the vocal-free gaps for a Hendrix effect, but primarily low-tuned. The band is at its best when it's rowdy - "Control" stands out despite clocking in at more than six minutes - and I would urge rock fans of all sorts - from June of '44 to Hendrix - to give Butterfat a chance live.

Loraxx, "Canada" (self-produced)

This band has come a long way from the scratchy, feedback-filled demo tapes that initially came across Raw Material's desk. Loraxx is another power trio, but with a decisively different approach than Butterfat Mastermind. Female vocals and a sort of slower, neo-punk rock grunge - we'll call it grunk - qualify this as one of the most uniquely aggressive records made in Chicago in recent memory; not to mention the fact that it's one of the most aggressive records recorded by Steve Albini, as well. The instant comparison to Babes in Toyland or Seven Year Bitch could be made, but it would be inaccurate. Sure Loraxx, like the others, has ultra-powerful female vocals, but that's the last similarity. The music hits much harder; pulsing rhythms and shifts in speed and intensity, as well as outright violent flurries of distortion and feedback, make Loraxx a nuclear bomb to Seven Year Bitch's stick of dynamite.

Solar Tribe, "Enlightened Paramecium" (self-produced)

Solar Tribe's "Enlightened Paramecium" isn't scheduled to be released until March 13, timed to coincide with CD-release show at the Metro on the same day. The psychedelic, colorful, rune-covered CD sleeve led me to believe that Solar Tribe was a kind of acid jazz/funk effort, but that's not the case. This six-person band instead plays, for lack of a better description, tribal pop infected with worldly sounds (i.e., a sitar, sometimes) and drifting melodies, but couched in rock's rhythmic pattern. "Enlightened Paramecium" is high on energy and musicianship, but needs a more distinct, songwriting identity. Not bad for a first record.

Love Kit, "Who's Afraid of the Radio Tower" (Ginger)

One of Chicago's hard-working acts, (Love Kit plays out extremely often), "Who's Afraid of the Radio Tower" is a pleasant surprise. Reminiscent of mid- sixties psychedelic guitar pop crossed with more modern pop (the 60 Foot Dolls come to mind), Love Kit (photo) has become a band of light hooks, bubblegum melody and fun songwriting. Love Kit keeps the songs short (a huge plus for light pop), and even has some college radio potential with "Bookmobile" and "You're My Food," the latter of which really pulls the sixties into the nineties. If you haven't seen Love Kit, do so. All the hard work seems to be paying off.

Five Mile Ceiling, three-song single "Zero"

Another band that's worked the city extremely hard, Five Mile Ceiling is in the midst of releasing a series of singles as a follow-up to its self-titled, 1997 full-length. If you haven't seen Five Mile Ceiling, than you just don't go out. Exceedingly textured, experimentally tonal and with one hand in the mainstream and another in the underground, "Zero"'s three songs are orchestrated groove, composed but undeniably flowing with bursts of energy. "Zero" and "Unavoidable" are direct rock songs, with hints of David Bowie and Sonic Youth (at different times); the middle track, "Chavez," drifts, letting low volume and silence work.

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