But I’d have to keep my heart locked up tight.

June 11, 2009

A great deal of my friends live in Chicago. Every month or so, one of them will inevitably ask when I’m going to move down there, how I’m missing out on being able to hang out on a whim and catch such and such band and take in a Cubs game (as if this is 1973, and all it takes is a smile and few loose dollar bills found on the bedroom floor to get into Wrigley these days) and how life would be so grand.

But see, some of these friends are married, so hanging out on a whim is out of the question. I still love the occasional game at Wrigley, but the crowds that pay through the nose to get in these days aren’t the same people that filled the park when my uncle would take me to see Mark Grace and Ryne Sandberg in my youth. 

I do miss the music. Of course, I’m also dropping down to Chicago every month or so to catch hole in the wall gigs at Fitzgerald’s or Schuba’s, so I don’t feel completely detached. As much as I love Madison, the music scene here isn’t what it is in Chicago.

To entice me further, Chicago’s music scene just retroactively improved with the reformation of the Differents — probably the city’s premier (at least the only one I knew of) Mod band from the 1990s. 

I’ve known the band’s guitarist and singer, Lou Hallwas, for years. Probably even longer than he realizes. See, way back in the days of dialup modems and AOL, I was just a paltry little teenager and active member of the Paul Weller email group, Little Splinters. Lou was a cool contributer to the forum because he was in a Mod band, they had a cool album called Viva! and on top of all of it, he was from Chicago and could talk about any facet of Paul Weller’s career. It was like everything I aspired to be.

We eventually met years later — after the Differents he went on to play with another Chicago band, Penthouse Sweets, which I was fortunate enough to catch live a couple times. They had some pretty solid tunes, and you can actually go grab some of their stuff on iTunes, so go on then.

But anyway, before the Differents split, they recorded an album called Fate’s Goin On. The core trio of Hallwas, Dan Garrity and Michael O’Malley were augmented by Frankie O’Malley and they lay down this whole album in two days. When you listen to it, it speaks testaments to how tight the group was — usually albums recorded in two days sound like they were recorded in two days. But this sounds well thought out and absolutely beautiful. 

For whatever reason, the boys never afforded the record a proper release, and as it goes in the mainstream, 10 years seems like a good year for Legacy Editions and double-disc retrospectives. So it goes in the indie- er… Chicagostream, and the Differents are putting this album out there for everyone to enjoy, and even doing a bit of gigging this summer to celebrate matters. Get more info as it comes here.

And if you get a chance, pick up the damn album. It’s like if Ronnie Lane, Ronnie Wood, Paul Weller and Neil Finn all sat in a studio and began a game of one-upsmanship songwriting. Lofty praise? Probably. But listen to these tracks and tell me it doesn’t make sense. 

The Differents – (I’ve Got) No Pictures of You
Best song the Jam (or maybe Weller circa 1993) never got around to writing.  

The Differents – Mrs. Beautiful
Someone send this down to Neil Finn, so the next time he throws together one of the Seven Worlds Collide projects, that all star band can have a crack at this. Somewhere in the set between “Loose Tongue” and Johnny Marr’s “Down on the Corner,” methinks… 

The Differents – Dawn
Opening sounds freshly plucked from Lane and Wood’s Mahoney’s Last Stand while the rest of the tune sounds like a deep cut from Ooh La La. All bands should have a song like this in their repertoire. It’s disheartening how few actually do. I f*cking love this song.  

And any band that’s ballsy enough to reference Wings’ London Town on their own album cover earns infinite cool points. 


Welcome back, dudes.

Sigh. I miss Chicago…

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