THE MOUNTAIN GOATS Sat 5/30 Wonder Ballroom

Spokenest w/Alien Boy, Backbiter, Shitty Weekend; Anarres Infoshop, 7101 N Lombard

Spokenest is indelible, minimalist punk at its finest, characterized by an endearing technical primitiveness and Jack-and-Jill call-and-response vocals from husband-and-wife duo Adrian Tenney and Daryl Gussin, formerly of the great Los Angeles punk band God Equals Genocide, whose 2012 LP Rattled Minds is well worth listening to in its own right. Gussin and Tenney hadn't totally relinquished the idea of pop in their former band's material, but as Spokenest, they're strict adherents to the "less is more" approach, an ethos that their stellar, debut mini-LP, We Move, serves to exemplify.

The group's latest three-song EP, however, is sort of hard to explain, but it plays like a choose-your-own-adventure: The band uploaded the vocal and instrumental tracks to YouTube separately (links are helpfully provided on their Bandcamp page). If you want to hear the songs in their complete form you need to stream both videos at the same time. It's a novel —though massively inconvenient—concept that also (probably not coincidentally) serves as something of a critique of the lack of listener interactivity in the way music is digested in the modern world.

Also performing are Alien Boy, a new project fronted by venerable sideperson Sonia Weber, currently of Our First Brains and formerly of Kind of Like Spitting. Alien Boy's Never Getting Over It sounds like a dreamy synthesis of Smiths worship (check the "Hand in Glove" cover), C86 chilliness, and fuzzy, incendiary alt-rock riffage.


The Mountain Goats w/Blank Range; Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell

As with Springsteen, I didn't understand John Darnielle until I got my driver's license. And like the Boss, the Mountain Goats' best material makes me homesick for an America I know I shouldn't understand. The focus of All Hail West Texas isn't explicitly geographical (it's about feeling horrible and heartbroken and the psychological instability associated with getting older, right?), but its essence is horrifically desolate in a way that seems to mirror its namesake perfectly—a quality undoubtedly attributable to the fact that it was recorded by Darnielle, solo, on a cassette boombox, not unlike Bruce's Nebraska. I've never driven down a barren Southwestern highway at 3 am, but I don't need to as long as I own All Hail West Texas. That's the point: A great artist is capable of universalizing a completely individual experience, and if John Darnielle isn't a great artist, then I don't know who is.