CHICAGO FREE PRESS

Return to Girl In A Coma

 

Queer bands rock

By Gregg Shapiro
Contributing writer
Girl in a Coma effortlessly avoids the sophomore slump with “Trio B.C.” (Blackheart). This soaring collection of tunes touches on the band’s various influences, including rockabilly, Southern blues and American and UK punk, but it never feels like the listener is standing behind them on line at the buffet. Each musical style gets its due because these three women are good musicians and outstanding songwriters. The bluesy tone of “BB,” “Vino” and “Slaughter Lane,” share space on the disc with the acoustic stomp of “Static Mind,” the blistering rock of “Baby Boy,” the propulsive “Pleasure and Pain,” the retro punk of “Joannie in the City” (featuring none other than Joan Jett), and splendid “In The Day,” which pays as much homage to Morrissey and The Smiths as the band’s name does. (Girl in a Coma performs on June 26 at 8:15 p.m. at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th. Call (312) 738-1503.)

Wendy & Lisa, who came to prominence as members of Prince’s band, have been recording together as a duo for 20 years under their own names or as the Girl Bros. The pair also recently came out publicly in an Out Magazine interview. Now that the suspicions of many have been confirmed, sit back and enjoy their atmospheric new album “White Flags of Winter Chimneys” (wendyandlisa.com).

The airy opening track “Balloon” reminded me of the Beatles’ instrumental “Flying,” while the catchy “Invisible” makes what sounds like less than flattering references to the Purple One, especially via the repeated phrase “when you were mine.” “Salt & Cherries (MC5)” rocks hardest, as you might expect a song that refers to the MC5 to do. Other highlights include “Red Bike” and the Joni Mitchell-esque “You and I.”

Sounding like a queer Rilo Kiley on a 1980s bender, “I Am the West” (Pop Heart) by Lovers, is probably the disc I’ve returned to most for repeated listens. Each of the ten tracks is like a foil-wrapped treat, leaving me smacking my lips and tapping my toes. Favorites include “Igloos For Ojos,” “How The Story Ends,” “Let’s Stay Lost,” “I Have Been The Moon,” “Imaginary Women” and “(This Ain’t) The Last Song.”

Three-quarters queer all-female quartet Blame Sally return with “Night of 1000 Stars” (Blame Sally Opus), a dozen songs that incorporate the band’s flair for country-colored pop tunes, best exemplified on “All Rise.” The trio Pariah Piranha keeps the riot grrrl fires burning on “Animous Unanimous” (Queer Control), occasionally adding a dash of screamo to the proceedings.

What about the guys, you ask? Antony and the Johnsons faced the virtually impossible task of following up their lauded 2004 debut “I Am a Bird Now,” with grace on “The Crying Light” (Secretly Canadian). In the years following “I Am a Bird Now”’s release, Antony (Hegarty), became an in-demand guest artist, appearing on albums by Rufus Wainwright and Marianne Faithfull, among others. A 2008 EP, “Another World,” indicated that the wait for a full-length disc would soon end. The EP’s wondrous title tune reappears on the lush and highly theatrical “The Crying Light,” as does standout selections including “Epilepsy Is Dancing,” the accessible pop of “Kiss My Name,” “Daylight and the Sun” and the electrified “Aeon.”

Like Stephin Merritt, with whom he performed as a member of The Magnetic Fields, LD Beghtol of Flare Acoustic Arts League (or Flare, for those on a budget), has too much talent to be confined to one band. In addition to Flare, Beghtol is an active member of The Moth Wranglers and LD and The New Criticism. With the import disc “Cut” (Affairs of the Heart), he once again illuminates our ears with Flare. Luminescent numbers such as the hot “Hands of Fire,” “Reminiscences of a Minnesota State Training School Alumnus, Circa 1905,” the queer drinking song “Ballad of Little Brown Bear,” the infectious “4F,” and the breathtaking “Love Finds Andy Warhol,” with its all-star line-up including the aforementioned Merritt.

John Ashfield is a sort of West Coast version of LD Beghtol. Aside from recording albums under his own name, Ashfield also plays in the San Francisco band The Bobbleheads. Maintaining a theme Ashfield started with 2007’s Johnny Mathis homage disc “Love Is Blue,” the four-song “Two Guitars, Open Fire” (thebobbleheads.com) reprises the song “Johnny Mathis,” and augments it with “Salzburg Is A City,” the Beach Boys harmonies of “Auffed,” and “Someone Special,” which reminded me of Pansy Division. For the record, the Ashfield/Beghtol connection has some basis in that the EP was recorded by Chris Xefos of the above mentioned Moth Wranglers.

As queer bands from Boston go, What Time is it, Mr. Fox? has more in common with The Dresden Dolls than Human Sexual Response on the their full-length disc “…and Other Stories” (whatimeisitmrfox.com). Fans of The Dresden Dolls neo-cabaret style should find much to like here, although What Time is it, Mr. Fox? also infuses their tunes with soulful sound that ought to appeal other tastes.