We RAgazzi with Detachment Kit at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Wednesday (June 9). $10. 416-596-1908, 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
If anyone participating in the current 80s revival has a right to complain about being unjustly overlooked, it's We Regazzi. Long before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol and the Liars started posing for fashion spreads, the Chicago-based members of We Ragazzi were busily twisting the jerky rhythms, gurgling synth werp and bent guitar lines from their favourite post-punk and no-wave records into something exciting, soulful and new on 99's Suicide Sound System (My Pal God) and 02's The Ache (Self-Starter Foundation).
Unfortunately, such trend-setting breakthroughs don't get as much attention in Chicago as, say, Sammy Sosa's corked bats, Jeff Tweedy's pill prescription or the rising cost of street-corner bratwurst. So instead of being hailed as innovators, We Ragazzi now tend to get dismissed as white-belted bandwagon jumpers.
"It is kinda frustrating and annoying," allows guitar-slashing frontman Tony Rolando, who formed the band back in 97, "especially when I read reviews comparing us to Hot Hot Heat or whatever. I guess you can't expect everyone to know what we've been doing for years, but you'd think music journalists would do some research on the artists they're writing about."
How perfectly fitting for We Ragazzi that when the West Humboldt Park building that housed their rehearsal space was sold last fall, the threesome of Rolando, keyboardist Colleen Burke and drummer Alianna Kalaba relocated to Brooklyn, the spiritual centre of the post-punk resurrection recently vacated by the Liars.
Although half the songs on their great new Wolves With Pretty Lips (Suicide Squeeze) album were written back in Chicago, it nevertheless appears that the move has been hugely beneficial to We Ragazzi. Rolando is quick to credit the superior studio expertise of producer/engineer John Congleton for the more focused attack.
"We produced our last record ourselves, and that took months and months to make. We'd do a mix, listen to it, change stuff, then do another mix, and on and on. I must've gone through like 250 CD-R's doing alternate mixes.
"But with John, the whole thing was recorded, mixed and mastered in just seven days. Getting it all down so quickly helped us make a much more cohesive-sounding album."
Judging by the less than flattering portrait of Chicago life that Rolando depicts in the song I'm Gonna Be Fine, it doesn't sound like he's feeling homesick for the Windy City.
"Chicago is quite a violent city," he explains. "I don't think most people realize how dangerous it is there. Being a musician, you tend to live in lower-rent areas, which also happen to be where there's a lot of gang violence. I actually feel a lot safer living in Brooklyn.
"Chicago is very segregated, with white people living on one side of town, blacks on the other and Puerto Ricans in another area. In Brooklyn you get on a train and you're surrounded by all different kinds of people - that's refreshing."