Gapers Block has ceased publication.

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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Monday, April 15

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« Transmission Thursday at the Five Star! From Ritual to Romance: a review of Gregory Jacobsen's Ritualistic School of Errors CDr/DVDr/Book box set (Resipiscient Records) »

Artist Thu Aug 30 2007

One Flew Over the Cuckold's Nest

What was it that André Breton said in one of his Surrealist manifestos, that "Beauty will be compulsive, or not at all"? Or wait…maybe he said that it would be convulsive. It's been misquoted so often that I can't remember which it is. But anyway, nevermind -- it's neither here nor there. For the Chicago band The Bird Names, the answer is that it will be both.

The Bird Names are about to release their third album, Wooden Lake/Sexual Diner, and chances are this is the first you're hearing about them. They've been around for about four-plus years, and have been playing in lofts and art spaces and clubs around town since the start. At first, they changed their own name many times over; and have had a number of members, friends, and valued contributors pass through their ranks all the while. On some evenings there's only a core group of about four or five people on stage when they play, on others so many of their extended family show up and join in that they can barely fit everyone on the stage. Sometimes they play plugged-in and very loudly, and on some occasions they perform much more subdued acoustic sets.

They're abrasively amiable and agreeably obtuse. Some might call them "freak-folk," which would be both somewhat accurate but also unforgivably lazy. Some might also call them "difficult" and "noisy," and ditto doubly so. Admittedly, were they to follow up on the whole New Weird America faux-pastoral thing and truck their gear out into the woods to commune with the natural, un-urban realm, then the racket they'd kick up with might send all the wildlife -- bears, bunnies, and (yes) birds –- scurrying to get out of earshot. But that's all surface, which is what a lot of people like and can't get beyond (especially when it's shiny). And while their music may sound chaotic and clangoring at first, what lies beneath is simple and direct and unabashedly celebratory -- so much so that one might suspect it of being deceptive, but it isn't. There's plenty of pop and prettiness to be found throughout, and you don't have to strain all that hard to hear it. Just know in advance that The Bird Names are the types who'll hide their light under a bushel, but only because they like the patterns the light makes when it's beaming through the mesh. They fall well short of reverting to washboard and diddley-bow primitivism, but they somehow capture its spirit and energy by their own means.

So what does Wooden Lake/Sexual Diner sound like? A lot of things, actually. It sounds like what you might hear if you told eskimos all about Hawaiian music but then gave them all the wrong instruments to play it with. And it sounds like the Beach Boys inventing punk rock with a bunch of pygmies circa 1955. Also it's the sound of a singing-telegram lullaby as heard through the reach of 5-mile string-phone. Sometimes it sounds like the music Arthur Brown might've been hearing in his head, were his head also full of peyote while he was dancing and hopping around naked inside a big inflatable Moonwalk thingy while contemplating a big comeback move with an album of children's songs. Or -- going back to the laziness thing -- you could say they kind-of sound like Animal Collective in a good way, but also manage to make Animal Collective sound like a bow-tied and tight-arsed barbershop quartet by comparison.

The Bird Names will be playing at the Empty Bottle this coming Monday, to celebrate the release of Wooden Lake/Sexual Diner. And Monday at the Empty Bottle means admission is free. Chandeliers and Golden Birthday will also be on the bill.

Wooden Lake/Sexual Diner is available through your local indie music store, or directly from Unsound Records.

[mp3]: The Bird Names - "Smoovebiz"
[mp3]: The Bird Names - "Nobody Loves Me"

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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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