Assassins Breathe Life Into Chicago
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on May 19, 2005 5:35PM
Once upon a time Chicago was known as a city of bands unafraid to add a little grandiose spectacle to its rock and/or roll shows. Then we got over Styx, thank god. But in the Eighties there was a definite resurgence of groups (i.e. that whole Wax Trax contingent) combining instruments, computers and stage extravaganzas to accomplish something more human and interactive than your typical concert experience.
This was effectively squashed during the major label signing frenzy started by the world's discovery of The Smashing Pumpkins. This begat Veruca Salt which begat Loud Lucy which, while they were perfectly nice people, begat a bunch of crap. This is quite possibly the primary reason Tortoise rose to power since during the ensuing backlash the indie kids needed something so completely opposite of that which had become known as Chicago rock and/or roll. In the meantime concerts had been reduced to crowds of hipsters standing with folded arms displaying their rapturous approval for the band on stage by slightly bobbing their heads or tapping their toes. Polite clapping in-between songs was also encouraged.
This little history lesson is important because it points out why Chicago's Assassins may well be the next great hope for this city when it comes to climbing back into today's cultural relevance. The current trend of exciting bands that write catchy songs that aren't just simplistic while also having the audacity to try and put on live shows that (gasp!) get the kids to dance isn't going away any time soon. So far Chicago hasn't had much to offer this particular movement.
Assassins was built out of portions of Chicago ahead-of-their-time electro-rockers MarvelKind and parts of the orch-poppers Butterfly Child and the end result ended up being both surprisingly lush and engagingly abrasive. Co-vocalists Joe Cassidy and Merritt Lear's voices soar over instrumental beds of pre-programmed beats, live drumming and walls of guitars while archival film footage is projected on-top of the band. It's the sort of spectacle that in the hands of a less skilled group of individuals could just look stupid but in the capable hands of the Assassins it ends up being something to experience.