Bored In Chicago

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Hailing from the would-be music mecca that was early-'90s Columbus, OH (so sayeth Entertainment Weekly), earwig is responsible for some of the most instantly catchy, albeit largely overlooked, alt-pop this side of Seattle. Released the same year as their self-released debut record (Mayfeeder), Bored in Chicago documents the last night of the band's "24 shows in 30 days" 1994 tour, played, as the title implies, in Chicago. Surprisingly, the majority of the songs included on Bored in Chicago aren't pulled from Mayfeeder. Instead, many are songs that remained otherwise unavailable for several more years until the band's proper sophomore outing, Perfect Past Tense, was released in 1999. Another of the songs, "She's Scary," was a remnant of earwig frontman Lizard McGee's previous band, Boy Picture, while "Seattle" remains exclusive to this live recording. Discography details aside, Bored in Chicago is itself a fun, energetic indie-emo-pop record, and the fact that it is live only serves to enhance the music's vibrancy and verve. The lyrics tend to be of the heartbroken variety, but McGee expertly manages to avoid singing gooey clich├ęs or trite emo-isms. Among the most endearing aspects of the live record are McGee's raw vocals (and guitar playing), pretty and on the verge of shattering at the same time; they create a complementary sense of tension, at times calling to mind the likes of a brasher Doug Martsch, Joey Sweeney, or John Atkins. Though each of the nine songs performed here possesses a certain super-fuzzy guitar pop charm, among the truly standout tracks are the simply gorgeous raveups of "Cineama East" and "Mink," as well as darker numbers like "Dress" and set-closing rockers "Stain" and "Wounded Knee." While Bored in Chicago was originally made available exclusively on cassette in 1994, in late 2001 the earwig-run Lizard Family Music label finally saw fit to re-release the album, this time on CD. Though the occasional crackles and pops of the lo-fi live recording are more evident on CD than they had been on cassette, it remains a strong representation of the band's work, and will likely be as close as many get to actually seeing the band live.

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