Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Top 5 Chicago Artists

Yup, here we go with another random list. This one is fairly simple though, basically just the top 5 recording artists that are generally considered to be bands from Chicago, which usually means that the band got their start in Chicago and/or the majority of the members of the band live in Chicago. Anyway, here it goes:

Screeching Weasel.
Fronted by Ben Foster, this on again off again collection of revolving pop/punk musicians aspires to be the Ramones. Ben, who names himself Ben Weasel, started the band in 1986 in the upper suburban reaches of Chicago in a place called Highland Park. They have recorded 13 albums over the span of their career, almost all of them on the San Francisco-based label Lookout.

Smoking Popes / Duvall
Formed in the early 1990s, the Smoking Popes were made up of the 3 Caterer brothers. They sound somewhat of a cross between Morrissey and the Buzzcocks. Strange combination? You're right, you've have to hear it to understand. Duvall is essentially the same band, majority of the members are the same, Josh Caterer is still the vocalist, the music sounds generally the same, the only difference being that toward the end of the life of the Smoking Popes, Josh got really devoted to his Christian faith and decided to start a new band.

Big Black
This band was really just a band side project for uber-producer Steve Albini, who has produced so many albums for so many well knowns bands it would be impossible to go through them all. Some of the big ones include In Utero by Nirvana, Meantime by Helmet, Surfer Rosa by The Pixies, there are just countless others. So Big Black was kind of a hobby for Albini. The music was guitar driven, backed by their faithful drum machine, Roland. They were only together for about 6 years, but since than, Albini has had other musical "side-projects" including Rapeman and Shellac.

This band's effect on industrial dance music will never be forgotten. Long before Nine Inch Nails came along and popularized aggressive, abrasive, guitar-oriented techno, this band found audiences within the metal and alternative crowds. However, this band started out more as a new wave, a la Human League, type project. After the first album With Sympathy, the band's mainstay, Al Jourgensen, found his distate with this style and began the sample-ridden, aggressive part metal part dance music pariah that it is today.

Smashing Pumpkins
Formed in 1988 and lasting a mere 12 years, this is probably one of the most influential alternative recording acts of our present generation. It seems to me that after hearing a lot of the newer stuff that is out on the radio now, everyone one of these bands owes the Pumpkins some props.

Honorable Mention:
Cheap Trick
Ok, the only reason these guys aren't on the top 5 is because technically, they are from Rockford, IL, which really isn't anywhere near Chicago, well, near as in, it's not within an hours drive of it. But hey, who can honestly say they don't like Cheap Trick and mean it? These guys are practically legends. They've been around since the mid-70s and haven't shown much signs of slowing down yet. They have released 19 albums in their almost-30 year career, starting with their self-titled album in 1977. Their latest offering, Special One, was released in 2003.

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