Eleventh Dream Day: El Moodio (1993)

Chicago's Eleventh Dream Day don't get enough credit for their run of terrific indie rock albums in the late 80s/early 90s.  And while I hate to over-use the "kinda like Yo La Tengo" cliche, it's hard to escape the comparisons -- guitar-driven post-punk that ranges from all-out jams to jangly ballads; a guitarist/drummer couple (alas, now former-couple) at the heart of the band (in this case, Janet Beverage Bean at times offering a sweeter counterpoint to Rick Rizzo's tougher blasts).  The best tracks feature both Bean and Rizzo, with a sound reminiscent of X's Doe/Cervenka duets.

While I'm a big fan of 1989's Beet, an album that was a refreshing wake up call back during my law school years, when it seemed like there weren't a lot of great new US guitar bands emerging, each of their albums has had a number of stellar tracks, and El Moodio has a few of the band's finest moments.  (They've continued to release albums intermittently in the years since.)

The El Moodio stand-out is the jangly, infectious "After This Time Is Gone," probably the closest the band ever came to a straight-out pop tune, radio friendly and catchy as all hell, with the Rizzo/Bean shared vocals truly shining.  (If anything, they sound a lot like the amazing Reivers here.)  It's also one where the melodic bass playing is particularly impressive.  The other attention-grabber is the album's lead-off track, "Makin' Like A Rug," with a rare vocal lead by Bean, a raging murder ballad with the two of them role-playing a couple in an abusive relationship, until she finally exacts her revenge ("Frances waited 'til long after last call/With cold steely plans she waited in the hall/At 4 a.m. Frank came stumblin' in/The fiery message exploded from her hand" -- now that's a fuckin' lyric).  Meanwhile, Rizzo supplies a buzz-saw guitar line that only exacerbates the song's rage and violence.  It's a thrilling, cathartic stunner.

"That's The Point" is another surprisingly poppy tune, simple and straightforward with another great hook in the chorus.  "Motherland" has a more expansive, rough guitar sound characteristic of a lot of their work at the time, with some nice jams; and "Bend Bridge" is a pithy blast, a bit of Crazy Horse going on.  Elsewhere they slow things down, a bit more droning and dark, which can make for some intense listening for lovers of indie rock guitar jams (and, again, for Crazy Horse fans -- check out the very "Cortez the Killer"-tinged "Rubberband" which closes out the disc).

About 20 years after its original release, the band released New Moodio, the album as initially recorded by the band in 1991, before they went back and re-recorded it for El Moodio.  To my ears, the newly-released early mix (which includes a few additional tracks that didn't make the official release) sounds brighter and drier, lacking some of the boomy reverb and intensity of the proper album; I think I prefer the 1993 version, but the initial mix is an interesting counterpoint.

Here's the video for "Makin' Like A Rug," and, hot damn.
Here's an audio rip of "After This Time Is Gone":
Here's El Moodio:
 And, for comparison, here's New Moodio:

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