Had Brian Cook only been the bassist for the wildly influential but short-lived hardcore outfit Botch (only two full length studio albums in 98 and 99), his status in the scene of heavy music would have been cemented long ago. But since then he’s been a part of other outstanding acts such as These Arms Are Snakes and metal supergroup SUMAC, but most recently and most notably, he’s been the bassist for Chicago’s own Russian Circles (yes, their name comes from THAT skating drill). Cook is also a pioneer in being one of the most prominent openly gay voices in the genre, where diversity and inclusion haven’t always been two of its hallmarks. And while all but one Russian Circles song have absolutely no vocals, they aren’t really necessary to convey what the band is trying to express in their punishing yet extremely melodic riffs, so they make for the perfect soundtrack for a day after getting resoundingly stomped.
Late last year on the podcast, I made the production choice to use WHAM!’s “Last Christmas”, being in the in the holiday spirit. Unfortunately, it seems that even loose association with us caused George Michael to succumb to an illness he kept private only four days later, on Christmas Day. And so Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, in accordance with what your final wishes very well could have been, we honor you here.
As frontman for two of the more beloved (if under appreciated) Chicago based emo-ish bands of the late 90s and early aughts in Braid and Hey Mercedes, the ginger bearded Bob Nanna has flown consistently under the radar as one of he genre’s more prolific and inventive song writers. While Braid’s hallmark was (and still is) tempo changes, odd time signatures, and Nanna’s interplay between co-vocalist Chris Broach, Hey Mercedes’ focus was more on sweeping choruses and Nanna’s baritone croon of a voice. Braid’s style can’t help but seep through even when covering an oddball 80’s one hit wonder from a band named after an obscure Star Trek character. And even after 16 years in between proper releases (1998 to 2014, during which Hey Mercedes’ was Nanna’s focus), Braid returned with a worthy entry to their catalog with No Coast; a rallying cry for a midwest-based series such as this if there ever was one.