When one thinks about rock music, there are several words that come to mind: sex, drugs, youth, punk and for many years, male. The “manliness” of rock seems to have been solidly debunked. Is “youth” on the brink?
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The last few years have seen a surge of critical and commercial success of bands from the ‘90s, or otherwise middle-aged artists. Superchunk, Slint, Come, Gories and many others have reunited to find themselves more popular then they were back in the day. Sonic Youth, Tortoise, Yo La Tengo, and the Flaming Lips are some of the most successful artists from the indie community. It is true that critics and audiences alike embrace new artists with mind bending rapidity thanks to blogs, social networks, and video technology. The same audience seems equally fast to reward and embrace artists whose careers began before those championing their virtues were born.
Riot Now!, Eleventh Dream Day’s 10th album, is a call back to the urgency of 1988’s Prairie School Freakout, with a string of mostly first takes tracked in one session with few overdubs. Rick Rizzo, Janet Beveridge Bean, Douglas McCombs and Mark Greenberg revel in their own mixture of melodic mayhem. The band, while always moderately active in Chicago have not released a record since 2006. Their 2011 album cover depicts a check out line in a grocery store. A customer stands glibly in line wearing a shirt that says “Riot Now!” Overhead a security camera films, and customers move about with blank expressions. The cover and many of the songs are comments on the contradictions inherit in a desire for large scale social change while retaining all the creature comforts of prosperity. While this election has shown us that Americans have less patience, we are largely complacent and unable to take action beyond complaint.
Jason Ankeny described Eleventh Dream Day as “one of the most resilient and criminally underappreciated bands to rise from the Midwestern underground community. The career of the noisy guitar unit is a textbook study in alt-rock endurance; despite a nightmarish major-label tenure, ill-timed roster changes, and commercial indifference, the group persevered, and emerged as elder statesmen of the Chicago independent scene.” Eleventh Dream Day are a band who make music because they are compelled to. Their motivation is as pure as it was when they began. They have something to say and they need to say it. The band are true to the ethos of the punk rock that inspired them. There can be no more perfect final nail in the coffin of those who still believe rock is the exclusive domain of youth.