Assassins - Live

By liz

Assassins - Schubas, Chicago 01/16/03

This will not be the typical review. I won't go on about songs, I will not go on about reproduction live vs on record, I will not even really discuss the members. I will tell you few basics, because that's all the information I have. ASSASSINS are the current project of Joe Cassidy (Butterfly Child) and four Chicagoans. They consist of two guitarists, (Joe and Merit Lear), one bassist, one drummer and one bloke on several keyboards.

Typical or not, I know magic when I see it.

January 16 in the bitter cold, these five musicians took the stage at a sold out, crowded to the brim show at Schubas with no record deal and nothing more than a basic listing in the Chicago press. The room was a buzz with electricity because the other people in the room knew something that I would find out... what it's like to catch a band at the beginning.

I hear outsiders talk about what a good indie music scene Chicago has and I know they can't possibly live here. There normally is no scene. Aluminum Group shows don't sell out. Kevin Thistia plays to a room of a dozen people. Archer who? Perhaps that's what makes it so miraculous the kind of attention Assassins has been getting from the underground. In the past month I have seen Schubas music room with 5 people in it, 10 people, perhaps a high of 40. Thursday night? God knows. I'm not good at math so don't ask me to count that high. For their first headlining show, the crowd came. It almost makes me wonder how many other shows they've opened for where they've blown the headliner out of the water. I didn't see them with Zwan last week but last time I saw them open for Soundtrack of our Lives I knew the music couldn't get any better once they'd left the stage.

So all this hype am I eventually going to tell you what they sound like? I wish it was that easy. Finely layered atmospheric guitars over space age keyboards and harmonized vocals doesn't do them justice. They aren't stereolab. I get an image in my head of birds... circling in perfect unison all going different directions until they converge in beautiful formation. It's swirly pop, but heavier. It's electronic yet wholly infused with guitars. It's scattered yet working together. It's dreamy yet grounded by bass and drums. It's mesmerizing, breathtaking and altogether pop inspired. Assassins have the force and power of rock at it's best, yet the sophistication of electronica and all the sensibility of (future) pop superstars.

Joe Cassidy's had this sort of praise forced upon him before. After nearly 10 years of recording he's had numerous Melody Maker and NME singles of the week, a record deal with Rough Trade, recorded with Tortoise, shared a stage with John Cale, Neil Hannon, god knows who else. I'm really hoping Assassins is the project that finally puts him over the edge because on that Thursday night... it was perfection.

"You've got a first class ticket to get you out of here" - Mile High Club