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NE-HI: Offers (Grand Jury)

Feb. 28, 2017
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If there hadn’t been a minor garage rock revival happening in Chicago a few years ago, NE-HI would probably have helped to create one with the fun blast of its eponymous debut album, released in 2014. 

Its second album, Offers, buzzes with enough energy to generate another revival, if there isn’t one currently underway. It could also add to the annals of garage rock bands that have tried to grow up a lot or a little, and the thinner annals of those who did so with any real artistic success. 

Part of the success of Offers is that, while it builds musically on the 1960s and most of the 1970s (Nuggets compilation, punk’s unofficial and official first waves), it mixes in attitudinal and spiritual reliance on the later 1970s and early 1980s (new wave, post-punk). 

So the playing—particularly Alex Otake’s drumming and James Weir’s bass lines—tends toward the spry and bouncy, but the feeling underneath tends toward the moodier and harsher, and, as guitarists Jason Balla and Mikey Wells alternate lead and backing vocals, snotty teenage kicks turn into 20-something side effects.

Such effects often manifest as influences: “Sisters” mashes together mid-period Replacements and mid-period Cure, “Palm of Hand” intertwines trebly guitars as if simulating a half-drunken Television rehearsal and “Everybody Warned You” sifts the tender scorn of Oasis’ “Wonderwall” through Tommy Keene’s power pop realism.

The Stooges and The Velvet Underground (title track), The Byrds (“Every Dent”) and The Beatles (“Don’t Wanna Know You”) are all, perhaps inevitably, ghosts of various translucence behind the more obvious influences, but NE-HI almost never lets the similarities overtake or haunt the songs.

Instead, the band switches tactics bluntly, jolting itself and the listener away from settling into any one style or tempo. Growing up isn’t easy, and Offers doesn’t try to make it so. 

NE-HI perform at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 5 at Riverwest Public House.

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