Picked to Click XVI

This one goes to 11!

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1. The Alarmists

2. Black Blondie

3. The God Damn Doo Wop Band

4. Chooglin'

5. Maria Isa

6. White Light Riot

7. Gay Beast

8. (tie) Awesome Snakes

Birthday Suits

10. (tie) One for the Team

Vampire Hands

Kat is small and boyish looking, with olive skin, a pierced septum, a flat chest, and short, dark hair. She's wearing a black hoodie and ratty black slacks. She's the mother of a six-year-old, who's playing video games in the next room. We're in the bedroom of her house in the Wedge, where she writes most of the band's material. Her background is a perfect mix of 1955 and 1977: She grew up the daughter of a Methodist pastor in Wisconsin. They moved around a lot: Sheboygan, Eau Claire, Madison. Her father encouraged her to sing, but she rebelled, sullenly ensconcing herself in his office to play solitaire during choir practice. But when she was 15, and they were in Barron, Wisconsin, she played bass and sang harmony with an all-girl band named the Rag Dolls in the basement of the church. It was the Rag Dolls' first and last performance (somebody's mother broke it up), but that was all it took to hook Kat on the shoob be doo wop de bop.

 

The three women of the God Damn Doo Wop Band got the idea to form a group after singing karaoke together at Grumpy's. When they sing now, they trade the lead vocal back and forth, skipping and trilling through their three-part harmonies. Kat writes the music on a four-track in her bedroom before bringing it to the rest of the band for full instrumentation. Does she actually sit down and write "Doo woop dee doo" when she's coming up with a chorus? "I think when I was teaching Dylan [the new bass player] some of the bass lines, I was going, like, 'dum doop dah doo/doo dah dah doo.'"

Nobody in the band seems too worried about the stylistic constraint that comes with their chosen genre, even though most of the bands that performed it, back in the '50s and '60s, were one-hit wonders. For their part, the guys are just adjusting to a style very different from the noisy punk they were accustomed to. "It's hard learning how to play guitar clean," admits lead guitarist Ross Fellrath, 28. "I've never been in a band where I didn't have it wound up. I've been listening to a lot of Beach Boys stuff."

Listening to the album, recorded quickly during that last Fourth of July heatwave (the entire band was forced to record in their underwear), you might wonder what real punk rock doo wop might sound like: 9/11 was an inside job/oooh waah. Or, Sleep tight, my Abu Ghraib-y, my Abu Ghraib-y/Dum diddy doo. But Kat isn't ready for full-scale subversion yet.

"When I write, it comes out in spurts," she says. "When I'm upset about a boy, it's going to come out. When I'm upset about the war in Iraq and have a song in my head chances are it will probably be about that. But it hasn't happened yet." She giggles a little too loudly. "Obviously, I don't like being a sappy girl. It drives me nuts. It drives me crazy that boys can have such an effect on the heart, and I would love to write other things, but I'm not going to make a conscious effort to do it. Because then it doesn't mean anything; if I'm writing something just to write something different."

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Bad Moon Rising
CHOOGLIN' BRING HORNS AND HOT LICKS
TO THE MIDNIGHT EVILS' AFTERPARTY

By Chuck Terhark

 

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1. The Alarmists

2. Black Blondie

3. The God Damn Doo Wop Band

4. Chooglin'

5. Maria Isa

6. White Light Riot

7. Gay Beast

8. (tie) Awesome Snakes

Birthday Suits

10. (tie) One for the Team

Vampire Hands

To choogle, or not to choogle?

 

That was the question facing Brian Vanderwerf in late 2005 when the fickle rock 'n' roll sun set on his band, the Midnight Evils. A bawdy bunch of eighth-note junkies with a live show so raucous they were twice voted "Best Rock Band" in these pages, the Evils were an antidote to the gently weeping guitars and foreplay-as-lyrics ethos of the early millennium. (Seriously, "Your Body Is a Wonderland?" Come on.) Vanderwerf's take on '70s-era guitar rawk, while certainly nothing new, felt fresh, for no other reason than because it cut the sweet talk and got right down to the drinking and fucking.

Which, of course, is what "chooglin'" is all about. To quote John Fogerty on the 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival track "Keep on Chooglin'": "You got to ball and have a good time/And that's what I call chooglin'." Vanderwerf cites Jerry Lee Lewis as the prototypical choogler, and describes it variously as "doin' it to the death" and "keepin' on keepin' on." That's what the Midnight Evils had been doing through three albums over five solid years. Then midnight struck, their evil rock dream turned back into a pumpkin, and—to extend the cliché—Vanderwerf was left holding the glass slipper. Or maybe it was a Les Paul. Whatever. Point is, the ending is a happy one: Vanderwerf kept on chooglin'.

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