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Spanish For 100 Scores 100 A+++

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on May 3, 2006 4:12PM

Chicagoist enjoys Built To Spill. We also enjoy Uncle Tupelo. How could we not? We live in the Midwest. So it’s safe to say that when a band comes along and is described to us as being similar to Doug Martsch and Jay Ferrar on a road trip we would be equal parts excited and hesitant.

2006_05_spanishfor100.jpgWe first saw Spanish For 100 at Schuba’s a few years ago when they opened for some crazy band from Norway whose lead singer kept flashing/pounding her breasts and knocking over tables. That was awesome. What was even more awesome was how unexpectedly fresh Spanish For 100 sounded, and it wasn’t just because they were so obviously on the wrong bill.

Lead singer Corey Passons has one of those voices that seems to perpetually be on the verge of veering seriously off-key. Instead of dipping into tinnitus-inducing paroxysms of misjudged octaves, his instrument instead serves to focus attention on his phrasing. And many of his melodic choices are unexpected and fresh, which helps to make the group’s music so compelling and enjoyable.

Passons is helped in no small measure by guitarist Aaron Starkey’s style that veers between frenetic punctuation and dreamscape lullabies. His textures are what truly vault the songs into a category that really does. It is also what ultimately makes a comparison as simple as “Built To Spill meets Uncle Tupelo” seem so inaccurate since, while the group’s sound does contain trace echoes of those influences, the pieces they’ve crafted defy such generic descriptions. Martsch and Farrar would be ecstatic if they could write material as fresh as the stuff on Spanish For 100’s (woefully as-yet-unreleased) sophomore effort.

Back in the ‘80s we would call a band like this “college rock” because it just didn’t fit into any easily definable category. In subsequent years musical genres have become so segmented that it would seem any and every group could be simply codified. (We are sure that somewhere out there, there‘s a screamo-glitch orch-pop group playing some dirty basement.) Tonight Spanish For 100 is in town playing Subterranean and we bet that they will, even in our fractured times, continue to defy easy description.