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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Brokeback plays Schubas Dec. 20



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Updated: December 19, 2013 12:54PM

Although Doug McCombs is best known as the bassist for Tortoise and Eleventh Dream Day, his rejuvenated Brokeback is making fresh waves both at home and abroad. The band turned many heads in a this summer opening for Daniel Lanois’ Downtown Sound concert at Millennium Park.

Brokeback recently returned from a European club jaunt that kept them away during for Thanksgiving. Expect them to be fighting fit for Friday’s intimate show at Schubas Tavern.

Though Tortoise’s influential post-rock is often associated with Chicago, Brokeback’s instrumental music transports listeners to arid climes. The band’s latest album “Brokeback and the Black Rock” conjures images of saguaro cactuses and wide-open desert vistas, where the sun beats so hard it raises dust. It’s a nice change from winter, but watch for scorpions.

McCombs’ twang-bar chords echo through “Who is Bozo Texino?” while a baritone guitar plays a low melody from south of the border. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Calexico’s fusion of mariachi, Americana, rock and jazz, with hints of Television’s Tom Verlaine in those lyrical solos. But it most closely resembles spaghetti western scores by Ennio Morricone for films like “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

Brokeback’s previous album “Looks at the Bird” celebrates its tenth birthday this year. “Bird” was equally inventive as “Black Rock,” but less organic, with explorations in electronic sound. Among the new songs, there are no glitch-pop rhythm tracks like the one on “Lupe.”

British expatriate Jim Elkington proves as intuitive on drums for Brokeback during “Will Be Arriving” as he does on guitar for his own band The Horse’s Ha with Janet Beveridge Bean (also of Eleventh Dream Day). Head of Skulls bandmates Chris Hansen on guitar and Pete Croke on bass are integral as well.

The expansive “Colossus of Roads” finds the quartet stretching and experimenting with each other as players, rather than tweaking studio effects. Brokeback’s current material is meant for the stage, and McCombs has assembled the perfect band to deliver it.

♦ Brokeback, with Bottomless Pit and Wereworm, 9 p.m. Dec. 20, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport. $10; SPOTIFY playlist:

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