90 Day Men: We Blame Chicago [Album Review]

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90 Day Men
We Blame Chicago
Numero Group [2024]

Album Overview: We Blame Chicago is another excellent box set from the label Numero Group as it compiles the work of the band 90 Day Men, spanning their entire career from the summer of 1995 to their disintegration in 2004. The box set includes their three studio albums, a previously unreleased 2001 John Peel Session, EPs, singles, outtakes, and a 68-page oral history curated by Tim Kinsella (Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc). It provides a comprehensive look at the band’s musical journey, capturing their evolution and influence over the course of a decade.

Musical Style: 90 Day Men’s musical style is characterized by its ornate and alienating nature. The band transcends genre boundaries, embracing the strange and eschewing trends and time. Rooted in angular indie rock, they evolved their sound over the years, incorporating elements of repetition, atmosphere, and minimalism. The band’s willingness to experiment with space and sound sets them apart, making their music unique and unpredictable. Their music is dynamic, thought-provoking, and always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible within the indie rock and post-punk realms.

Evolution of Sound: 90 Day Men’s sound evolved significantly over the years. Starting with a foundation in angular indie rock, they progressively embraced repetition, atmosphere, and minimalism. The band’s ability to use the studio as a voice allowed them to experiment with different sonic elements, leading to a unique and visionary sound that set them apart in the music landscape.

Artists with Similar Fire: While 90 Day Men’s unique style makes them stand out, their early influences from DC and Touch And Go bands of the era can draw comparisons to artists from those scenes. If you are a fan of bands like Shellac, June of 44, Slint, Fugazi, Don Caballero and Rodan then 90 Day Men should be a no brainer to check out. All of these groups have an angular, minimalist approach, unconventional song structures, brooding sound and complex songwriting. 90 Day Men’s more experimental tendencies and DIY ethos will all also appeal with their willingness to push boundaries that’s both abrasive and atmospheric.

Pivotal Tracks: 90 Day Men was a band that evolved on every record and you can hear it here as you take the albums in order. “Sort of Is a Country In Love” from (It (Is) It) Critical Band (2000) has a winding, trance like approach that leads into spoken vocals. The track highlights how many times the music outweighs the lyrics. On the title track of the box set from 2002’s To Everybody:, “We Blame Chicago” has many instrument shifts tonal shifts that fluctuate between jazz and space rock while the instrumental leaves you wanting more of this head smart delivery. “Too Late Or Too Dead” is from the band’s last record Panda Park (2004) and I really like how it has a more upbeat but intense undertone as it fully represents the culmination of their vision.

Lyrical Strength: The band’s lyrical strength lies in their commitment to removing the tarnish that has fallen and bound the soul of youth. They address societal issues, navigate the post-9/11 landscape, and reflect on their outsider status with a stream of consciousness approach. The lyrical content is thought-provoking and aligns with their uncompromising vision, contributing to the band’s impact on Chicago’s music history.

Bandcamp | Numero Group

Christopher Anthony
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