Empty Bottle – Chicago
Since their 2003 self titled EP, it seems that I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness have gotten in touch with their darker side, crafting music that reflects on the goth potential of their lengthy band name. With Fear Is On Our Side, they’ve added some touches of late 80’s modern rock to the formula, ending up with something recalling both the shimmering sound of the Cocteau Twins as well as the subdued moments of Interpol.
The night they came to Chicago, The Empty Bottle was filled with a strangely transitional crowd: trendsters, punks, yuppies, toursty looking folks, old people, and a dude in a Julio Englesias shirt. From the looks of the mix, I’d guess everyone’s been keeping an eye on the SXSW buzz these days. Despite the maddening blend of people, the small club was nearly filled for the Southern fried opener, Catfish Haven. Now I don’t personally have anything against the guys, but however competently you approach Skynyrd by way of Stone Temple Pilots, you won’t make a fan out of me. Their set was mercifully short.
Between sets, the crowd re-organized and I decided to push my way to the front. There I found an odd bubble of empty space in front of the stage, occupied only by a poofy-haired teenager flanked on both sides by a set of bored looking parents. As confusing a sight this was, I took the opportunity to lean against the stage, get a good view, and have a place to rest my drink. Sadly, that would probably be the high point of my evening. ILYBICD slowly got on stage, member by member, and finished their sound check. Still, there was a strange lack of people near the stage. With e-bows in hand, the band started their set with the lofty “We Chose Faces,” a track that combines Sigur Ros-ian atmospheres with a mildly campy modern rock drum beat. Dripping with reverb, the song’s plaintive repeated call of “you’re on our own” gives a hint of My Bloody Valentine. Next, they played “Lights,” a track that is exemplar of the somber middle ground that Fear Is On Our Side encompasses. It borders on a weird brand of post-goth, rocking out in that standing still kind of way. The audience responded in kind, hardly moving save for a few nodding heads, but with the opening drumbeat from “When You Go Out,” the energy changed a bit. The vaguely dance-punk number from their self-titled debut EP felt different and more engaging than everything they’d played so far. The band seemed a little more into the song, as well as the audience who finally started to move a little more. The song rings more modern than much of Fear Is On Our Side, borrowing a bit more from Interpol’s guitar sound and 2004’s fetish for Gang of Four. Despite the older song being somewhat more engaging, I found my overall interest starting to disappear. As the songs wore on, I started to realize how much of the new material is a bit uniform, nothing really jumping out as exceptional. My mind wandered till I heard the beginning of the pretentiously named “Ghost, The.” The brooding vocals combined with the building of the drums, made for what was the standout moment of the set, as well as their new album. The song successfully finds a balance between being both moody and aggressive, something not every song successfully does.
Ultimately, it was a sadly static performance, the drummer being the most active member, mashing away from the back of the stage with a wide-eyed intensity of a speed freak. I was disappointed that Christian Goyer’s voice wasn’t as strong live. On the album, it’s rich with earnest, but live it comes out sounding thin, like a watery Morrissey. As my interest waned, I migrated back to the bar. Turning back to face the stage, I realized that the crowd had thinned out considerably. It was one of those rare shows that I was happy to see end, and considering how the place had emptied out, I think most people agreed with me.
Previously published on Loose Record