Mannequin Men and Vee Dee

The two Chicago bands playing at the Hideout Saturday night have been around for a few years, but they’ve both just released self-titled records. Does putting out a self-titled record imply that this is the one that defines your sound? Maybe, maybe not. But for both of these bands, Mannequin Men and Vee Dee, these 2011 albums are good starting points for anyone who wants to get familiar with what they’re doing. And both bands rocked pretty hard on Saturday night. Vee Dee’s label, BLVD, describes its music as “scuzz rock.” There’s a good amount of riffing ’70s hard rock, verging on heavy metal, in this trio’s sound, mixed up with garage, punk, glam and, yeah, scuzz.

The Mannequin Men have been playing catchy garage rock (or post-punk or what have you) with deliciously sneering vocals over the course of three albums now, and the new self-titled one is their best set of melodies and riffs so far. There’s even a touch of wistfulness amid the bratty snarling — just a touch. Singer-guitarist Kevin Richard sings lead on most of the songs, but the band’s secret weapon is drummer Seth Bohn, who handled the main vocals on a few of the best tunes Saturday night. The guys sounded loose but never sloppy (it’s a fine line), nailing the riffs when they needed to be nailed.

Record Store Day

As far as I’m concerned, every day should be Record Store Day, but as promotional gimmicks go, this is a good one. For three years now, independent record stores around the United States have celebrated the fact that they’re still in existence with a day featuring special records you can buy only on Record Store Day, in-store concerts and whatever festivities the local folks can think up. More than 20 shops in Chicago participated yesterday. Some of these stores had people lined up outside before business opened — fans hoping to snag a copy of something like, say, the clear-vinyl Neko Case LP.

I spent some time shopping, listening to live music and hanging out at Laurie’s Planet of Sound and Permanent Records, also making a brief stop at the Reckless Records in Wicker Park. All three stores were packed with record collectors and music fans for much of the day. Like most people, I buy music online these days, but I still love the experience of shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. While it’s true that the Internet has created new kinds of musical communities, there’s still something cool about chatting with a knowledgeable record-store clerk or hearing something interesting on the record-store turntable.

As far as the special collectible stuff on sale yesterday, I limited myself to just one locally produced 7-inch record — the Trouble in Mind label’s single featuring songs by four bands: Ty Segall, CoCoComa, White Wires and Charlie & the Moonhearts. Some good garage-rock on white vinyl. And like a lot of the vinyl releases that indie-rock bands are putting out lately, it came with a code to download mp3 versions of the songs for free. That’s one of the trends now — vinyl releases plus mp3s, without any CD.

At Laurie’s I, um, “caught” Vee Dee. The trio was playing songs off its new double LP, Public Mental Health System. The volume wasn’t quite as high as it usually is during a Vee Dee gig, but the music still rocked with a sort of early-’70s proto-punk sound. Think of the Stooges and bands like that. Earlier, Laurie’s also featured subdued, introspective songs from the singer who calls himself Algebro (a.k.a. Thom Cathcart).

Later in the afternoon, I saw White Mystery perform a rambunctious set of its garage-rock songs at Permanent Records. I know, I know — you’re probably thinking: Hasn’t this guy seen White Mystery three times in the past month or so. Yes, that’s true. I didn’t really plan to see them that many times, but it was still exciting to see them doing their thing, once again.

And it was exciting to see at least a few record stores are still thriving. See my photos of Algebro, Vee Dee and White Mystery playing on Record Store Day.