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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Review Sun Aug 26 2007

Dog-Paddling Through Domesticity

For some time now, Marvin Tate has been keeping a diminished profile on the local music scene. As of this month, that appears to have finally ended.

Those who've been around a while might recall his appearances at the Hot House and other venues around town with his former bands Uptighty and Marvin Tate's D-Settlement, or they might know him as a denizen of the city's spoken-word circuit. Since the break-up of D-Settlement, Tate has spent the past few years dwelling of the periphery; but now he's returned with Family Swim, his debut CD as a solo artist.

The album finds him joined by a band of friends and associates, and the whole thing was co-written and produced long-time collaborator and former Wilco member LeRoy Bach. Tate's traded in some of the funk of his D-Settlement days for a more eclectic musical style -- a move that's prompted some to describe Family Swim (and his recent performance at the Hideout) as "cabaret" and "Tom Waits-ian." Fitting enough, perhaps, considering the way Tate engages theatrical conceits and narrative personae.

Over the course of the album, you get doses of gospel, country blues, some vaguely psychedelic hoodoo-funk, a couple of spoken-word pieces, and even some stuff that sounds like an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical tailored for the House On The Rock -- all of it put across via the band's style of ragged-edged, junk-shop urban minstrelsy. But for Tate, music is only one part of the production -- it's as much about the story being told and voice that tells it. The stories that thread Family Swim are the stuff of classic allegory and exposition in contemporary settings: tales of human folly and frailty, betrayal, perseverance and happenstance triumphs, insanely effed-up relationships, and about a lot of the big-picture shit you just can't control or understand yet learn to simply live with.

The collaborative chemistry between Tate and Bach is at its strongest on the latter half of the disc, with the album's two jewels falling dead center in the batch. "My Technicolor Garden" is flat-out hilarious. Executed in the style of a sloppy high-school musical (with sketchy upright piano and drunken doo-wop backing vocals), it’s the story of a relationship that starts out all g.t.'s, with Tate bellowing how the early days were Like a big dog sitting on your chest… / Like a big, ripe tih-tayy hangin' out of a blouse... / Like hot sex on a rainy day… / Like the first ride on a Ferris wheel. But eventually it all unravels, the woman up and runs off with their only child, and in the end the narrator gloats and mocks: Now you're on the 'Most Wanted' list in fifty states / Just because you couldn't face the fact / That I was right and YOU! and YOU! and YOU! / You were WRRROOOONG!

And then there's the album's greatest moment of heavy-hearted beauty, the Kurt Weill-ian "Town of 500" -- a sparse and deeply haunting song of abjection and loneliness as told from the perspective of the sole gay resident of Nowheresville, USA. By the time the album finishes with the full-blown gospel of "Upstairs Neighbor," you feel like you've turned the last page of a solid anthology of collected fiction, having visited a number of lives and landscapes in the process.

Marvin Tate will be performing sets of r&b covers under the name Bobby Albright at the HideOut for the next two Mondays (August 27 and September 3). His accompanying band, Baby Alright, will feature LeRoy Bach, Azita Youssefi, Dan Britney, and Emmett Kelly. See the Hideout's schedule for more details.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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