Archive for the 'Chicago 90s' Category


Menthol’s Stress is Best…

A resurrected draft from seven years ago. An act that was always coveted but became more so after a random car-aoke of sorts.

Simplistic moments sometimes create the best memories. I cherish a grocery store run with a friend, his sibling, and the right record.

A song’s greatness isn’t always revealed immediately. The number of tracks that slipped by me for not hitting upon first listen is unquantifiable. The 90s were a time of album consumption. Some records required a few skips in order to be enjoyed. Songs had to meet this formula: upbeat, loud, the lyrics were irrelevant. A song that didn’t meet this criterion was skipped.

Menthol’s ’95 Brad Wood produced debut was one of the best unheard acts of the mid-90s. A trio based out of Central Illinois and raised on New Wave. This record brimmed full of smart, professorially-like lyrics, over driving guitars that created imperfect sonic noise. An act proving distortion could be melodic and integral to storytelling. 25 years later, this record is personally spun from front to back with catharsis-like vocals, bone-breaking drum hits, and a yearning for Chicago’s 90s sound. But today’s adoration is owed to an impassioned fan being transported back to a simpler time when this album debuted.

Years back, I visited a friend’s parents’ house. It is a few days before Christmas and all his siblings are present. My friend was tasked with a grocery run. We asked his older sibling Blair if he wanted to roll, he happily obliged. Before departing, Blair grabbed a disc.

Older brothers are cooler than you, hip to what you don’t know exists. Blair was invested in integral 90s Chicago rock; Triple Fast Action, Hum, Smoking Popes, among others. My friend took copious notes from his brother and owes his listening habits to him. Menthol’s debut was going to fuel our trip.

This Capitol Records release contains 12 punchy songs brimming full of sexual innuendo, crunch, and glam-infused muscle. As a younger listener, I would jump around, pick and choose what was worth hearing. One of the strongest tracks on this record didn’t possess the formula I was exclusive to. “Stress Is Best” is sandwiched between “Francis Scott Key” and “Bedhead, Redeyed, and Bewildered”, tracks my simple mind liked. But all it takes is one key, holy shit the emotion and energy this track creates to see the song’s true potential.

My boy at the wheel, Blair strategically skipping a few tracks to unleash the monster that is “Stress Is Best”; a slow burner, one where the wick is ignited and its destination causes a distortion filled explosion of ups and downs of the record industry. A melodic strum with a slow and deliberate vocal delivery opens this soon to be cataclysmic monster. Mid-point, the introduction repeats itself as the distortion-heavy instrumentation slows down to take a much needed reprieve from pummeling of instruments.

This is when Blair became electric, he knew the volcanic eruption had been percolating; as soon as Menthol’s powerful attack returned, he strategically rotated from his captain’s chair and peered into my eyes as he unleashed, “Tearing down red woods!” at a throat destroying decibel. Like he had been rehearsing these lines since this record debuted and now was the time to unleash them. Flawlessly ripping through the remainder of the three and a half minute track with such vocal precision all I could do was stare.

I hear this track now and picture this impassioned fan spewing me with his spittle as he impersonates Menthol’s Balthazar de Ley with authenticity and inspirational energy from the captain’s chair. Music can turn the ordinary into life affirming moments. The right song and confidence to perform possesses that power. Turn it up, don’t hesitate to perform, and give songs off coveted records time, and multiple chances to shine.

Menthol :: Stress Is Best

Nerdy Show’s podcast on Menthol


Forgotten Species’ Hades Fades EP (Draft Resurrection)

A draft resurrected from 2014 about a well-respected Chicagoan, one responsible for three acts held in reverence. Acts become quickly forgotten by most, but I take pride in continuing to find present-day connections to these bands lost in obscurity.

My listening habits from my teenage and college-era were formative in what I still listen to. You remove an act from my listening repertoire, the trajectory would have been life-altering. Chicago-based artists have given me more than the city itself. Vivid, timeless memories were crafted thanks to their recorded output and live shows.

Blake Smith is a serial band founder. The Chicago-based artist has been an integral piece in three cherished, still spun today rock-based acts; Fig Dish, Caviar, and Prairie Cartel. All witty, all powerfully orchestrated, and all still queued up long after they’re defunct. Smith is a trusted source, after many years, and countless spins, I have an idea of what to expect from his next venture: Consistency.

His latest experiment: Forgotten Species. A quartet churning out accessible power-pop. The debut Hades Fades EP beautifully showcases Smith’s ability to create guitar-heavy noise-pop songs. A band founded by Blake wouldn’t be one without Brit influences, melody poking through fuzz, and hooks disguised as tasteful noise. Five tracks, no filler, all strong and tasteful reflections on late nights, perplexing romantic interactions, urban mis-adventures. Smith expertly narrates and choreographs what looks to be another coveted rock-based outfit.

I discovered Fig Dish’s unreleased 3rd LP Onamism in 2020. This was a plea to record labels willing to hear the band out as they searched for a new home after being kicked to the curb from A&M Records. Upon purchasing a functioning record player, my goal was to attain any and all records from artists that made me who I am today as a listener. Fig Dish’s 7″ and Prairie Cartel acquisitions nicely padded my collection.

Stream via Spotify:


Local H’s No Fun E.P. (Draft Resurrection)

A post began in 2014. This EP was sent to me in July of this year after I realized it was missing from my digital collection. The duo never gave up any of their intensity when this pandemic struck. I’d argue they cranked the dial further than they had had it. Chicago’s strongest, most innovative rock duo continues to give me reason to spin their entire discography.

Streaming is overwhelming. Any stream has come from within my tiny mind, there isn’t a shelf showcasing an arsenal of records making suggestions. I have amassed a large collection of albums and don’t have the brainpower to call all of it to my frontal lobe when it’s selection time. Some records will be forgotten.

Local H’s No Fun, a 6 song E.P. from 2003, was lost in the chasm of albums, E.P.s, and singles only available via physical media. This extended play consists of three originals and three reinterpretations. All are loud, full of cathartic and hearty vocals care of Scott Lucas, and brandish an impenetrable arsenal of sound. Scott and Brian flex their newfound prowess as the new iteration of Local H.

On “No Fun” Scott pleads how the charade is up, the band is bullshit and reeks of insincerity and incompetence through powerful instruments of mass destruction; H places themselves as the head of state in “President Forever” as they proclaim their ability to do whatever the hell they want. A song debuted during GWB’s term, though with lyrics like, “I’m President forever/accountable to no one no more”, it screams at our anti-leader. “Fuck Yeah, That Wide” found inspiration within Primal Scream’s “Kill All Hippies” by borrowing and slightly modifying the line, “You got the money, I got the soul!” to create a psychedelic freak-out. “FYTW” at the time was H’s longest song with a running time of nine minutes and 47 seconds.

Scott shares his influences and current listening habits with his live audience. Most live gigs include a cover song. H tackles The Godfathers’ 1988 tell it how it is “Birth, School, Work, Death” through riff-heavy distortion and emphatic proclamations. And the pandemic timely “I Just Want Something To Do” originally penned by The Ramones has Scott and Brian passionately plugged into their thunderous sound begging for some human contact.

St. Clair debuted as the new timekeeper of Local H on their 2002 LP Here Comes the Zoo. This follow-up demonstrates how cohesive of an act they became through a small body of work. With newfound synergy, Scott and Brian masterly tear any skeptic into shreds in 28 minutes.

Local H :: No Fun

Local H :: Cooler Heads

Local H continues moving forward in 2020:

Scott Lucas LIVE from the Empty Bottle’s rooftop during the pandemic

More Upcoming Drive-in Shows

Local H asking you to take action


Chicago Got Lucky (Draft Resurrection)

A draft created in 2013. Even though its contents were about two former 90s Chicago acts, I found connections to them this year. Loud Lucy, a bright and powerfully expressive trio, created a cohesively formidable debut record in 1995 and vanished almost as quickly as they stepped onto the scene. Earlier this year, I discovered their one and only record was on Spotify after believing MP3s were my only listening source. Then Fig Dish, a witty power-pop quartet fronted by Blake Smith, a serial band founder who has given me countless listens over two plus decades. Smith contributed to “High, Wide, and Stupid” off Local H’s latest record Lifers.

A lost tribute album re-emerged this month: Wikipedia reminded me of its existence while researching oddities. You Got Lucky is a collection of Tom Petty songs reimagined from various artists of the 90s. Two former staples in my Chicago rotation were enlisted for this covers record.

Loud Lucy, a trio signed to Geffen Records was a one and done act. Their debut Breathe was a collection of 12 tracks that showcased the bands ability to rock, create tracks with sudden acceleration around Christian Lane’s excitable vocal range, and made me question why this melodic guitar-heavy act disappeared. Cover or not, this is an additional Loud Lucy track; and one with Veruca Salt’s Louise Post on backing vocals.

Loud Lucy :: Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around

The alt-power pop quartet Fig Dish showcased their high-energy Chicago sound over the course of two whip smart, consistent full-lengths. On this rendition, the quartet remove the brightness of Petty’s original for a slow-burn care of chugging guitars, a formulaic 90s crunch, and sludgy feedback that when at its apex is ready to burst out of the gates with the furious pop propulsion Fig Dish excelled at.

Fig Dish :: Don’t Come Around Here No More


25 Years of Local H…

Historical topics that pique my interest are captivating. A narrative written in autobiographical-like form, one that I feel almost eternally invested in, becomes an essential consumption. It’s a feat to last in the music game. You and your band released more than one record, you’re ahead of most. You’ve found enough grit and semi-success to last a decade, congratulations because you’re doing something right. The former Chicagoans of the Year, Local H, on the verge of unleashing their 8th LP, Hey Killer, have survived 25 years. But if my speakers and I are the judge, survived isn’t what Local H has done, they’ve thrived.

The band gets the significance of this milestone. On their Facebook page, they’re offering up stories of the past, studio tweaks, demos not many have heard, and tidbits on how certain songs became to be. As of now, they’re up to “Pack Up The Cats”, their third full length released in ’98.

Before “All the Kids Are Right” became the perfectly crafted story song it is, Scott looked to none other than Cheap Trick for inspiration and took his already written “Lead Pipe Cinch” and reworked it. Below, one example of the brilliant historical artifacts on display as the best duo in the game invite you to experience 25 Years of Local H:




Local H’s The Misanthrope…


The hardest working duo in the game, Local H, are unleashing their 8th LP in April, Hey Killer. Through their Pledge Music campaign, we’ve been sprinkled with a song here or there; snippets are rather appetizing and keep up the anticipation. The public can now take in their hard hitting “The Misanthrope”. Not one hint of Scott slowing down, and their new drummer, Ryan, hits harder than your mom after you failed her again.



Top 3 EPs of ’14 In No Order…

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Perhaps it’s the inability to focus on much for long. Or maybe I only have limited patience for a whole record before wanting to aurally ingest another vibe. Regardless, the EP is a preferred format. Many of my favorite extended plays have been introductions to acts. A sampler — or a track or two — can only go so far. If the act hits hard, I want more. The EP gives you enough to not tire of that artist before a proper full length is released. The material that the EP provides, especially those artists who may be debuting themselves on record, aren’t providing you with filler — sometimes the debut EP is the best thing the band ever does. It’s 4-6 tracks that don’t stop. What’s below are two absolute favorite artists in EP format and a newcomer to me.

sElf :: Super Fake Nice

Matt Mahaffey of one man jam fame sElf has been teasing us with “Super Fake Nice” for a minute. It ended up being an EP, one six songs deep and housing five new ones. Rewind 14 years ago, and Gizmodgery and its toys took over my speakers. Now in 2014, I have an official sElf release to monopolize my ears. From the opener, “Runaway”, with its smile inducing melody and shoulder shake inducing bounce, to the closer, “Splitting Atoms”, with its SPM-era fuzz and driving guitars, lies six classical sElf numbers bristling with Matt’s recipe for my aural satiety. His fusion of 80s beats and rhymes, an adulation for Prince, sugary pop sensibilities, and a 19 year old solid track record make Super Fake Nice an automatic go-to for 2014.

Forgotten Species :: Hades Fades

A debut EP from one of the most trusted names in my musical catalog. Blake Smith, a co-creator of Chicago staples Fig Dish, Caviar, and the Prairie Cartel, has unveiled his latest concoction: Forgotten Species. The Hades Fades EP is self-described “noise-pop”. A barrage of distorted cacophony care of ear plug inducing guitars is laced throughout the five tracks, sure. But interwoven amongst the fuzz and Brit influences are pure pop songs, ones that Blake has been writing for two decades. It’s not that he has a formula that he’s repeated with four previous acts, it’s the man knows how to construct songs that matter. Tracks I’ve been repeating since ’95. One part wit and charm through well penned lyricism; two parts rock; one part Chicago hustle.

Tourist :: Patterns EP

Soulful house, music that the right church, one that wants to lose themselves in celestial, gospel-like lyrical patterns could embrace, if their pews were sturdy enough. Tourist, a London-based DJ/producer welcomed himself into my speakers this year. Four tracks, all pulsating with an eruption of beats as a foundation as minimalist yet powerful vocals evoking a better tomorrow drive me into one of the most played EPs of 2014.






Local H Wants You to Join Them In the Studio, kinda…

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How many of your favorite acts are still gettin’ after it? They still stepping on stage and giving their all? Consistently churning out new, quality music for you to enjoy? Local H, Chicago’s hardest working act, is back at it again. The duo is stepping into the studio to create their 8th full length record. But this time, they want to make it interactive — giving us a chance to experience their chemistry and output as they progress through the record. Using Pledge Music, Scott and Ryan are offering this unique experience:


And this time we want you to join us. Be there when we start recording on December 3rd at Electrical Audio and Million Yen Studios right here in Chicago. You’ll get exclusive access to the entire process with updates from the studio, rough mixes, and whatever else may happen.

Depending on what you pledge/donate, Local H is offering unique incentives. My girl doesn’t know it yet, but she’s going to absolutely love the used and sweaty Batman and Robin costume my $400 pledge just bought us. Check your options…


We live in a time where this opportunity exists. According to Steve Albini, the man behind Electrical Audio studios, the music industry is in a great place. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to read his current thoughts on why this is a great time to be involved in any facet of the industry:

Steve Albini on the surprisingly sturdy state of the music industry


Lorde’s ‘Team’ reimagined by Local H…

“I remember going down a Lorde rabbit hole on YouTube last summer, and the song that really stuck with me was ‘Team.’ The lyrics killed me. They were everything I’d been wanting to hear someone say in a pop song. I sorta teared up a little. I tried playing an acoustic version at a show in January, but quickly realized that the song was an anthem and should be rocked out. Besides, acoustic Lorde is the Boss’s territory now.”

We already know Local H is recreating others’ songs for their Awesome Mixtape #2. Today one of those renditions surfaces in the form of a studio video. Chicago’s duo chose ‘Team’ off Lorde’s 2013 Pure Heroine LP. Check the debut studio track from the newly reincarnated Local H…



Local H’s Awesome Mixtape #2 & Chamberlin…

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I consider myself lucky when it comes to music. One of my favorite groups is still together and making waves. Consistently — when there isn’t a word on Local H for months, don’t fret; significant news is lurking around the corner.

“Rather than wait until we have enough songs for a full length, we just wanna record the songs as they come to try and capture that energy when it’s new and exciting,” explains Local H frontman Scott Lucas. “We also want to record the odd cover here and there for our next ‘Awesome Mix Tape’ EP.”

If we can get anything as half as good as “Wolf Like Me” and H’s take on Concrete Blonde’s “Joey”, consider me counting down the days until the follow-up to Local H’s Awesome Mixtape #1.

Alternative also speaks of a Scott Lucas/Jimmy Chamberlin get together to score the 1925 silent film “Battleship Potemkin”.

On May 2nd, Lucas will team up with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin (formerly of The Smashing Pumpkins) and bassist Matt Ulery under the band name Mary Shelley for a unique live performance during CIMM (Chicago International Music & Movies Fest). The trio will score Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 silent film masterpiece “Battleship Potemkin” at 1st Ward (2033 W. North Ave.).

Upcoming Shows:


May 2021