Photo by Ken Paul
SmartBar is celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, and despite the scrapbook documentaries and other forms of Chicago mythology, the club has a legacy of residents that is second to none. I mean that sincerely – the Warehouse, Music Box and all of the other classic stations of the scene included. What other club can claim DJ alumni as traditional as Joe Smooth, but also a figure as outré as Joi Ito, who took a turn as a resident at SmartBar (spinning mostly industrial) on his way to becoming Director of MIT’s Media Lab and universally renowned as one of the smartest and most interesting men on the planet?
Garrett David is the next in line, and the second current SmartBar resident (after The Black Madonna) to be featured on Stripped & Chewed, a label establishing itself as Chicago’s most exhilerating homegrown imprint. The Queen! Tracks take their name from the Sunday night residency that Garrett is a part of. For the title track, a garagey tune with rolling keys, handclaps and jackin’ beats, this is a descendent of more than Ralphi Rosario’s “Bardot Fever” as the one sheet states. Featuring shout-outs to Ruby Dee and the other “door whores” (those words belong to Byrd Bardot – please don’t yell at me!), it’s a throwback to another era when a DJ residency in this town had enough cachet, and was interesting enough beyond the DJs & Drinks you can get anywhere, to justify it’s own soundtrack. I’m probably forgetting something, but I don’t think I’ve felt that chill, that I was somewhere special, since hearing “Welcome to the Warehouse” and having a tardy acid flashback stepping off of Randolph Street.
The original mix will be a little too much for Bro Housers, but the Dub sufficient for those who like to live in pleasant ignorance of just what community this music came out of. The B-side tracks are most decidedly not filler: “The Pressure” stands alone as a great track, complete with what I think is a very short reference to “The Whistle Song” and perhaps a hint to the title’s meaning. “Tunnels” too is fantastic – I can imagine taking a survey of a dozen different DJs and receiving four different answers as to what’s the hot track on this EP.
As with all Stripped & Chewed releases, The Queen! Tracks is available first at Gramaphone, but should have trickled through the vinyl distribution channels by the time this is in your hands.
As for an overall rating? You can’t miss. Beginning to end, this is one of my favorite releases of the year.