JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound

Chicago has a lot of amazing bands — White Mystery, Smith Westerns, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir — but with all these incredible garage and indie bands, it’s easy to forget that Chicago is also home of jazz, the blues, gospel and soul music, and JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound are easily one of the best soul bands in town. And since Five Tunes’ HQ is in Uptown, Chicago, we’ve got some pride to have our neighborhood’s moniker tacked onto the name of an amazing soul band.

The beat, guitar stabs, and lyrical themes are steeped in that rock-tinged funk of Sly Stone and James Brown. Hell, “Baltimore Is The New Brooklyn” might as well be the new “Chocolate City.” But Brooks’ voice is amazing. Hearing him sing with the band is like when Jerry Wexler had Don Covay record “Sookie Sookie” with Booker T. & The MG’s at Stax.

And do you know another soul band that does a cover of a Wilco song?

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound – “Get It Together” (new single)

The Uptown Sound will be headlining “A Very Soulful X-Mas Revue” this Saturday (Dec. 12) at the Double Door. All proceeds go to Second City’s Letters to Santa program (which you may have heard about recently). Listen to soul music, help some children. Here’s five from JC.

five tunes

1) Amy Winehouse – “Take The Box (Headquarters Mix)” (from The Other Side of Amy Winehouse)- “I love this lady’s voice — the tone and timbre aside, her runs are not only perfect, but they seem even more so because they’re inventive. She hits notes in a run that for a split second don’t seem to work and then resolves them beautifully. This tune has a really vibe-y early-mid-’90s R&B feel and great lyrics.”

2) TNT Boys – “Musica Del Alma” (from Sex Symbols) – “I caught this on the radio the other day and loved how these guys cribbed on Archie Bell’s ‘Tighen Up.’ It’s a refreshing take on a song that, for me, has gotten a little worn.”

3) Anita Baker – “Love You To The Letter” (from Compositions) – “I love the jazz-soul and Anita is one of the best at it. Most of her best work sounds a bit dated now (early ’80s synth-driven jazz’n’b) but I love it still. This is a slower, more traditional jazz ballad.”

4) Gorillaz – “Dirty Harry (Schtung Chinese New Year Remix)” (from D-Sides) – “I just dig this song (this remix in particular) because it helps my work day to move along. It’s cool, engaging and isn’t too distracting for the amount of go it provides.”

5) The Apples In Stereo – “Go” (from Discovery of a World Inside the Moone) – “A favorite from way back. I stole this cd from my college’s radio station when I was dj-ing as a freshman. This song is the perfect accompaniment to some film’s nitrous montage. What first caught me about this song is that the intro disarms you with a sort of mindless, happy, dork-rock feel and as the verse hits the track hops to this funky breaks territory, without sacrificing the joy of the previous section to the cool of the breakbeat or the suddenly far-groovier bassline.”

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound – Insound | iTunes | Lala


Home Blitz

The book Please Kill Me documents the Ramones’ first trip to England. Bands greeted them with a “tougher-than-thou” poise, thinking that the Ramones were in a real-life gang. Of course, they were just a bunch of dudes from New York and New Jersey who played loud, fast, simple rock ‘n’ roll, but the leather jackets, album art and stage presence gave it an entirely different feeling to the people overseas.

Home Blitz give off the exact same feeling. You don’t want to fuck with Daniel DiMaggio and his crew of DIY Jersey punks (from what I hear, the possibly temporary 15-year-old drummer is even quite the badass).

However, just like you can hear the Ramones’ roots in surf music, you can hear Home Blitz roots in more melodic rock ‘n’ roll, like Big Star, especially on the new album Out of Phase. That’s not to say that the new record loses the sloshy, home recorded feeling of their first album. It just occasionally surprises with Alex Chilton’s sophistication after a slack-jawed punk attack.

Home Blitz – “Don’t Talk To Me” (from Out of Phase)

Here’s five from DiMaggio.

five tunes

1) Christian Death – “Spiritual Cramp” (from Only Theatre of Pain) – “A wonderful song from their first album Only Theatre Of Pain. One reason I like this band is that it’s hard to figure out from the voice if singer Rozz Williams is a guy or a girl (pretty sure he’s a guy but I don’t like to think about it). This song has great lyrics like ‘walking on water in a sea of incest/I’ve got the image of Jesus embedded in my chest/I can’t leave home without my bullet-proof vest.'”

2) The Sidewinders – “Got You Down” (from Sidewinders) – “The Sidewinders were an early vehicle for Paley Bro Andy who would go on to make far more tepid records in the later ’70s, produce Brian Wilson, and do other dumb stuff. This song, from their self titled sole album, is unremittingly straight ahead street rock, like normal dudes trying to play Loaded. Totally great ultimate regular-guy sidewalk music. The lyrics to this song hit home for me in a kind of uncomfortable way but I’m still real into it.”

3) Game Theory – White Blues (from Blaze Of Glory) – “The punkest song (not saying much) from the greatest band ever, Game Theory. I listened to this song a bunch of times a day for a while.  So intense. From their first and by far rarest LP Blaze Of Glory, which showcases some of the most atrocious mixing in the history of records and it totally doesn’t matter.”

4) Sublime – “STP” (from Robbin’ The Hood) – “Sublime are one of my favorite bands and the biggest dirtbags to ever get famous (check out the Stories, Tales, Lies & Exaggerations documentary on YouTube). This amazing song is about living in a meth pad and comes to us from their difficult second album Robbin’ The Hood.”

5) Lady Gaga – “Just Dance” (from The Fame)“Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta’s adlibs during the first two bars of this song make me happier than anything in a really long time, and the first two verses are almost as great, before the whole thing flames out hard with a third verse of sub-Flo-Rida guido sing-rapping from Colby O’Donis. It’s also cool that some of the stuff LG sings in this song, both in the chorus and in the doubletracked staggered talking part at the end, is straight up gibberish, as borne out by the included lyric booklet. Her album The Fame has a bunch of great songs, especially ‘Summer Boy,’ a ‘Dancing Queen’-esque disco rocker with complicated chords (I watched some youtube vids of Colby O’Donis and it turns out that he isn’t actually a guido, but is instead a polite Hispanic boy).”

Home Blitz – Insound | iTunes | Midheaven

The King Khan & BBQ Show

And here we are, list #100. We seriously can’t think of a better band to ring it in with than one of our favorite bands of the year/decade/ever.

The King Khan & BBQ Show are a gift from the psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll heavens. King Khan is our Little Richard and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Mark Sultan (BBQ) is our Del Shannon and Reg Presley. They’re both punk as shit and can still croon and clap like The Crystals.

And their new album Invisible Girl? Incredible. There’s the finger snapping “all in good fun-turned-massacre” song “Spin The Bottle,” there’s the hilarious and barn stompin’ “Animal Party,” and of course, there’s “Tastebuds,” a catchy song about having the ability to taste by using…ahem…sexual organs. It’s one of our favorite albums of the year. Easily.

The King Khan & BBQ Show – “Invisible Girl” (from Invisible Girl)

Tonight, (Dec. 2), The King Khan & BBQ Show will be at the Logan Square Auditorium. If you haven’t bought Invisible Girl yet, get out there and do so. Happy 100, everybody. Here’s a list from King Khan & BBQ.

five tunes

1) Queen & David Bowie – “Under Pressure” (single) – “We started opening our shows with this song recently … it is truly an amazing song … behind the moustache is gold and rabbit teeth.”

2) The Falcons – “Oh Baby” – “The vocals make our spines tingle absolutely essential R&B … take heed Kanye!!!!!”

3) Arkansas Dave – “Arkansas Dave” – “A tale of the demise of Arkansas Dave by the hands of Arkansas Dave sung by Arkansas Dave … you do the math!”

(Ed. note: Couldn’t find “Arkansas Dave” by Arkansas Dave, so instead, here are two other songs involving “Arkansas Dave.” First, “Arkansas Dave” by George Strait, and second, an amateur Machinima video of “The Ballad of Arkansas Dave Rudabaugh” by Pat Green. Enjoy!)

4) Nobunny“Chuck Berry Holiday” (from Love Visions) – “Our fuzzy brother from Oakland strikes again … you can hear the pee pee in his pants … and I don’t mean Chuck!”

5) Bloodshot Bill – “Lickin’ the Bowl” (from Full Blast) – “Our brother from Montreal sings a song about our favorite past time…”

The King Khan & BBQ Show – Insound | Permanent | Lala


For the longest time, I wanted to hear a party song. A song like “Psycho” by The Sonics or “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio” by the Ramones that chugs at the beginning and builds with a grizzly voice and a snarl. A song that said, “I’m ready to drink, dance, and start a fight if things get out of hand.”

Well Shark? from Brooklyn have made that song. It’s called “I’m An Animal,” and it’s exactly the antidote for anybody with a handle of whiskey and a pool cue. When it comes to garage rock that rivals the Troggs, the McCoys, the Monks and the other fallen heroes of that time, Shark? makes a pretty amazing case with a song like “I’m An Animal.”

Shark? – “I’m An Animal” (single)

Here’s list #99 from Kevin Diamond.

five tunes

1) Real Estate – “Suburban Beverage” – “Duh. Everyone likes this song. I think Real Estate is like my generation’s Yo La Tengo. I mean, they’re both from New Jersey. And they both write amazing songs. That’s enough for a comparison.”

2) Mario – “Break Up” (from D.N.A.) – “I work in a food service truck, and I listen to the radio a lot in there. This song is always on and it is always stuck in my head afterward. I think the production on this track is perfect, the hook is repetitive and catchy. That’s all I ever want.”

3) The Intelligence – “Thank You God For Fixing The Tape Machine” (from Fake Surfers) – “I don’t really know much about The Intelligence. Someone just told me one of the members was in the A Frames, who I also like a lot. The guitar tone on this song is to die for. If I could make my guitar sound like that on my recordings i’d be in heaven.”

4) Ghostface Killah – “Yolanda’s House” (from Big Doe Rehab) – “I think this is one of the best rap songs of the last few years. Method Man’s verse cracks me up every time. I love how vivid the story is in this song. It reminds me of those games where everyone writes a part of a story and hands it off to the next person to finish it.”

5) Talking Heads – “Girlfriend is Better” (from Stop Making Sense) – “I only put this on here because I played it last night while DJing at a Halloween party and the room lost it. Everybody was singing along, and I realized it was pretty much a perfect song. Talking Heads transcend all boundaries.”

Shark? – self-release

Ty Segall

Welcome to the fourth and final post of Trouble In Mind week. This week, we’ve been featuring lists from the four bands who have just released 7″s on Chicago’s own Trouble In Mind Records. To finish us off, it’s Ty Segall.

On his work on Goner Records and his other recordings, Ty Segall has proved to be a prolific garage rock songwriter and performer. His record Lemons is definitely a highlight of the year in garage rock. And while the A-side of his new 45 keeps that flow, his B-side on the Trouble In Mind 7″ takes a sharp turn in a weird direction.

His single “Fuzzy Cat” starts out by being repetitive and really, really strange. It would fit in well on We’re Only In It For The Money by The Mothers or any B-sides compilation by Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band (or, as he lists below, The Soft Machine). But then the second half of the song becomes this Stooges or Groupies-like rampage of garage punk. It’s awesome.

Ty Segall – “Fuzzy Cat” (7″)

Buy this single. Seriously. Here’s Ty’s list.

five tunes

1)  The Soft Machine – “Save Yourself” (from The Soft Machine) – “This band is my all-time favorite psych band. Everything about this band is great. Except for their later records. Volumes one and two by The Soft Machine are 100 percent ESSENTIAL! The keys on this track rule.”

2) Jacques Dutronc – “Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi” (from Les essentiels) – “Mr. Jacques Dutronc is the sexiest French playboy pop star of all time. This song rules. His dance moves rule. Yes … Damn.”

3) Void – “Who Are You?” (from Faith / Void) – “The most insane.”

4) Black Sabbath – “Sabbra Cadabra” (from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath) – “Best Band Ever.”

5) The Fall – “Your Heart Out” (from Dragnet) – “I love this record. I love this band.”

Ty Segall – Trouble In Mind | Insound | Lala

Wheels On Fire

We’re back with part 3 of 4 in Trouble In Mind week. This week, we’ve got lists from all four bands who released 45s on Chicago’s Trouble In Mind label. Today, it’s Wheels On Fire!

This is a band that deserves a mountain of recognition. With vocals that are reminiscent of Gentleman Jesse‘s songwriting/guitar work that hearkens back to Ray Davies, the Athens, Ohio band is solid. It’s straightforward rock ‘n’ roll.

Their Trouble In Mind single “Bad Lie” has that CoCoComa sense of heartache and ’60s garage. “Come On Judy” has a similar tone, but the rhythm has an odd, slowed down feeling of that old Bo Diddley beat. I’ve been to Athens, Ohio, but I had no idea the town had produced a band this good.

Wheels On Fire – “Bad Lie” (7″)

And now, a list!

five tunes

1) Jack-O and The Tennessee Tearjerkers – “Sweet Thang” (from The Disco Outlaw) – “It’s a perfect rock ‘n’ roll song. A workout! Jack’s songs keep getting better.”

2) Brimstone Howl – “Final Dispatch” (from Big Deal. What’s He Done Lately?)- “This song has a great hook … a real slow roller. Kinda works its way inside ya.”

3) Box Elders“Stay” (from Alice And Friends) – “Really nice keyboard sounds on this whole record … this song is especially catchy.”

4) Wizzard – “See My Baby Jive” (from Wizzard Brew) – “Roy Wood’s band after ELO.  This song’s amazing when you hear it for the first time.  It’s got a real ‘wall of sound’ thing going on.”

5) Jail – “There’s No Sky (Oh My My)” (from There’s No Sky (Oh My My)) – “Off our favorite new album! We listen to it all the time when we’re driving… it makes us happy.”

Wheels On Fire – Trouble In Mind | Insound

Tyler Jon Tyler

Here we go again with Trouble In Mind week! All this week, we’re featuring lists from the four artists who have just released 7″s on Chicago’s Trouble In Mind label. And now, Tyler Jon Tyler.

No, Tyler Jon Tyler is not one man (for more, see the three decade old “Jethro Tull” explanation). In fact, the Chicago band plays the opposite card that Women and Girls did: despite having three boy names in the title, the band’s singer is a lady (Becca Flores).

On their new song “Faster Than Light,” the band pumps out a brilliant, catchy piece of indie pop genius in under two minutes (which means the song’s length lives up to its name). Given the garage rock “umph” of Trouble In Mind’s previous 7″s, it’s a pleasant surprise to hear the same garage edge with some indie rock elegance attached.

Tyler Jon Tyler – “Faster Than Light” (7″)

The band will be at the Empty Bottle on Dec. 14 with The Yolks. Here’s their five. Happy Thanksgiving!

five tunes

1) Orange Juice – “Simply Thrilled Honey” (from The Glasgow School) – “The only kind of Orange Juice that’s okay after brushing.” – Becca

2) The Flamin’ Groovies – “Shake Some Action” (from Shake Some Action) – “I first heard this song as a cover by some shitty ’90s alternative band in that Clueless movie … listening to that soundtrack at 10 years old influenced my music taste for good.” – Becca

3) Chuck Berry – “Come On” (from You Can Never Tell: The Complete Chess Recordings 1960-1966) – “It’s a minute and fifty seconds long, cartoonish and lovey-dovey. The lyrics are really funny, the back-ups are great, and the guitar is terrible!” – Nathan

4) Ike and Tina Turner – “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” (from It’s Gonna Work Out Fine) – “I once fractured a couple ribs dancing to this song.  Totally worth it.” – Tom

5) Devo – “Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy” (from Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo) – “Although I lack the evidence to prove it, I believe that this song
can, under the right circumstances, lead to immortality.” – Tom

Tyler Jon Tyler – Trouble In Mind