Monday, October 25, 2004

Rock Star Club

In the years since the 20th century turned into the 21st, I have tried my best to remain faithful to my old lover, rock and roll. Sadly, it has been difficult. She has come back to me in the guise of a cheap harlot or, at best, a sad, tired hag. The radio is a graveyard of nostalgia and recycling and, when it comes to music, I have little patience for either.

Rock and Roll is dying and I guess I don’t really care. It’s hard to, given the current crop of bands that crouch under this umbrella. For Christ’s sake, I heard a song by Hoobastank—a band everyone, including Rolling Stone, is falling over themselves to celebrate—and it made me physically ill. It’s the Strokes all over again. Every few years some band comes around and the irrelevant magazines bend over for them and try and convince the less savvy that they are the saviors of rock and roll. If this is true, I say let the bitch die already.

I admit: my tastes lean toward the strange. I love experimentation in music. I consider Mr. Bungle and the Boredoms to be the best music to come out of the 90’s. Over the course of 2004, I have listened to The Conet Project, Phillip Glass and Shut Up, Little Man! more than I have listened to my Van Halen or even Naked Raygun CD’s. I think Japanese noise projects like Merzbow have something to say. The most conventional band I listen to on a regular basis is Blonde Redhead. So yeah, at the risk of sounding like some avant-garde snob, I think I have pretty odd discs in my library. Some call my taste in music weird, I call it refined.

This being the case, I must put the band Rock Star Club high on my list of favorites, not of this year, not of this generation, but of all time. Their music consistently moves me and makes me remember that rock and roll is capable of being something quite extraordinary. In a bland FM world of the sickeningly ordinary, this is quite a statement. They make honest music without pretension, without irony and without ego. Okay, the live show has some ego and the stage attire might suggest subtle irony, but I don’t feel the need to retract the previous statement. Rock Star Club is the only band that can play a show in cowboy hats and throw up devil signs and make it seem genuine. When they say, “Give us 30 minutes and we’ll give you the best rock show you’ve seen all year” I not only believe it, I believe they believe it. Is this arrogant? Well, Ali said, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.” Having seen the Club perform many times, I can say that it ain’t bragging.

I first caught wind of this amazing band in 1999 when Loyola’s radio station played as much of the classic America Needs Rock Star Club as they could without violating FCC regulations. It planted the seed that would become an obsession, culminating with The Entertainer, a disc I have played so many times it has become the soundtrack to my early 30’s. The first night I got the CD I played it 13 times in a row. No foolin'. I was (to use a cliché, which is really the only appropriate way to convey this) blown away by the power of the songs, the introspective lyrics, the honest-to-god delivery and the tight structure of every moment of the record. Every song flows brilliantly into the next and each listen gets better. I was inspired to contact these local gods and gush like the fan boy creep I was (am).

I had the grand pleasure of interviewing 3/4’s the band before a show at Subterranean. We shared beers and I let them ramble for a few hours, after which they took the stage and played one of the best shows I have ever seen. Somehow I managed to whittle down the evening’s chaos into a printable interview, which can be read here:

2004 brings to the world a new release from this mammoth band. Bienvenidos a Grand y Western consists of five songs showcasing a part of Chicago tourists don’t see. It is a document of love to the Ukrainian Village, the food, the people and the joy of the deceptively simple music known as rock and roll. A tight, professional recording of some damn fine music, it is a welcome addition to the Rock Star Club cannon. It features the song “Short Arm”, a favorite of mine that I have been hearing for years at shows. Thankfully, I now have a recorded version to call my own. Follow my example and get your own copy.

I have done my best to share with the world what remains something of a secret. I have made copies of the Club’s music for friends, bought them CDs and begged them to join me at concerts. I have told just about everyone I know about the band. I have interviewed them and reviewed their CDs for Night Times, hoping that the few people who go to that site would buy a CD and tell their friends. I don’t know that I have made a difference, but I’ve tried. And I will continue to do so as long as these guys continue making amazing music.

As long as Rock Star Club exists I’ll say it: long live rock and roll. Go to and join the RSC Army.