If you're no fan of challenging, progressive and occasionally frightening music, stay as far away as possible from Chicago's U.S. Maple. The band's latest disc, Talker (Drag City), stumbles like a drunk sailor with a poetic soul, with rolling, Jazz-like improv bursts that are coupled with haunting, spectral melodies and raspy howls. There's no way to categorize U.S. Maple (always a bonus for fans, downer for critics), their dynamic style rising dramatically and falling ecstatically with an off-kilter Captain Beefheart or early Nick Cave edge that can be alternately puzzling and captivating.
At the Southgate House. (The venue is offering a discount with ticket stubs from the Guided by Voices show at Bogart's earlier in the evening.)
C-Note would seem to be any capitalist record label guy's wet dream. Not only do they fit into the "Boy Band" mode (they're an attractive four-piece "vocal ensemble") and have the "team" that brought you Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync behind them, but they also, according to their press releases, have the "Latin" angle, made hot in the Anglo world recently by Ricky Martin and, apparently, Jennifer Lopez. Research has revealed that there are many different ways to look at C-Note. 'Round Here breaks it down for you.
First, the industry spin. Their label's publicists says the group "bring(s) a sensual Latin flavor to their blend of Pop, Dance and R&B sounds" and their live shows are "thrilling audiences with their high-energy choreography and passionate singing." Marketing folks at the label told Billboard that they "don't see them as a boy group, but as a very talented vocal group. It just so happens that they're also very good-looking." What sets them apart? "We want to stress the bilingual aspect of the group," Ceci Kurzman, VP of marketing at the band's label, Epic, also told Billboard. "In the end, that's what will really separate them from other Pop groups."
The band's spin is heavy on the defensive: "We don't want to be seen as somebody's newest creation" and "The only way that you can compare us to other similar bands is that we are four guys that sing and dance." Also, they insist they're different because they're "sexual, more urban." The defensiveness is mixed with usual pleas of wanting to be taken seriously and that cute quasi-humbleness.
The best take comes from the crucial teen press contingent. "These guys have what you need to survive as a boy band: 1) great tunes, 2) great attitudes and 3) great looks!" says Popstar! magazine. Teen Celebrity asks, "Is there room for another boy band on the Pop charts? Does homework suck?"
Inevitably, the spin is far more interesting than C-Note's new album, Different Kind of Love (Epic). Like Jennifer Lopez, the only thing Latin about the group is their heritage. Though produced by '80s Pop/R&B producers Full Force, the songs are loaded with sheen and short on soul. Like most of these kind of groups, the vocal abilities aren't in doubt. The generic sound, approach and songs simply make this "product" aimed at teen consumers the same way candy bars and tampons are.
At Riverbend with Silk and Brandy.