I can't claim to be the type of guy who could lose my big toe without flinching, but I'm on the stoic side. A good Midwesterner, I keep my business pretty close and in this context "business" means just about every aspect of everything. Generally, the less said, the less shown, the better.
However, I'm not ashamed to admit that I've fogged up a bit at a number of Eleventh Dream Day shows. Why do they make me break character? That's a complex question (and there's an obscenely long screenplay in my closet that fails to answer it), but I've got a couple ideas.
In their twenty year history, they've continually released solid to great albums featuring settings, characters and images recognizable to anyone who's spent time in a place where you're never far from both an idle warehouse and a stubble field of corn. I'm not the first to say that Prarie School Freakout is an classic Chicago album and when I hear "Among the Pines", I know the exact color of the "dawn of nothin' and nobody" (mid-October sky the hue of a bad grey suit from Cohn and Stern).
Among the Pines - Eleventh Dream Day
They're also living Chicago rock history, having played out at places like Batteries Not Included and Lounge Ax while rubbing shoulders with some of the finest bands from the finest era of rock this city ever produced. While no one would confuse them with Naked Raygun or the Effigies, they're rising up out of the same slime. That they are still playing the same tunes, and that the new ones sound as good, this makes me misty happy.
This is not to say they are some sort of nostalgia act. EDD is actually something of a rare breed; even during their early, fiery years, they never sounded exactly youthful. They rocked like hell, but to these ears, they seemed mature with a rare focus. Absolute brilliance in rock comes from mere babes more often than not, but they's something absolutely fresh about a band that can be scorching and controlled.
Finally, there's also Rick Rizzo and Janet Bean singing together. Their interplay is even less conventional than Janet and Cathy Irwin in Freakwater and it doesn't appear on every song, but man, when it shows up there's an unforced beauty that just gets me right here. Amy's got "Sugar, Sugar" in her DNA; I didn't fully express my genotype until I'd heard "Makin' Like a Rug" from the out-of-print El Moodio.
Makin' Like a Rug - Eleventh Dream Day
They've got a new album, Zeros and Ones, out today from Thrill Jockey, who are streaming samples. The new one finds them in great form and I'm sure they'll display the same at the Empty Bottle May 18.