Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Illinois--What the Hell Do I Know? (2007)

Album-What the Hell Do I Know?
Release Date-Mar 6, 2007
Genre/Style-Indie-Rock Alternative Pop/Rock


Biography-Contrary to what their name might indicate, Illinois formed in Pennsylvania — Bucks County to be exact. Comprised of musicians Chris Archibald (vocals, guitar, banjo, keys), Andrew Lee (guitar, keys), Martin Hoeger (bass), and John-Paul Kuyper (drums), Illinois forged a style of indie rock that combined the grit and punchiness of the White Stripes with the easygoing vibe of the Arcade Fire. Illinois released their first EP, What the Hell Do I Know?, in the spring of 2007 via Ace Fu Records.

Review-Coming from AMG. Confusingly, Illinois hail not from the Midwest but Pennsylvania, and although you can just make out traces of the Smashing Pumpkins in their music, this geographically confused group looks mostly across the Atlantic for inspiration. Take "Bad Day," which Illinois take straight out of the hands of the Soup Dragons, whose 1990 Brit hit "I'm Free" was, of course, written by the Rolling Stones. "Bad" brilliantly lifts "Free"'s hook, as well as the Dragons' swirly atmosphere and exotic Eastern tinge, but weds them to a phenomenal bass and drum backing, and tosses a long meandering pity-me monologue into the background. This kind of wonderfully dreamy atmosphere imbues much of What the Hell Do I Know?, particularly on the laid-back, pop-flecked "Alone Again" and the gloriously rousing "Headphones." "Screendoor" adds a '70s rock sound to the mix, "One on One" a splendid Phil Spector-ish aura. The swirling atmosphere gives way to gravitas and regal majesty on "What Can I Do for You," an inspired power ballad whose elegant piano passages and synth-strings all scream British Christmas number one. Unfortunately, Illinois are American, so that's unlikely. The group does, however, pay tribute to its own roots with the stomping, banjo-driven, square-dancing-goes-clubbing "Nosebleed." Sheer brilliance that. Add lyrics that range from musing to angsty to melancholic, and this is one impressive set, turning the clock back to a dreamier, more introspective time via a panoply of styles.

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