In the liner notes of their first album, Chicago-based Eleventh Dream Day admitted they turned a problem into a solution. After trying half the night to fix feedback on an amp, the band gave in and left the distortion, making their 1987 album Prairie School Freakout a lo-fi success. Major league releases on Atlantic Records followed. But by the mid-‘90s, as college rock faded, the band found itself back in the minors, where they released some of their finest work. Ursa Major and Eighth feature moments of rushed intensity, soaring beauty and sonic landscapes both raw and delicate. The band shifted into a more electronic mode for Zeroes and Ones, their least engaging record. Frequently incorporating the guitar assault of Neil Young into a heartland version of rock, the band shook off its torpor. Now on Thrill Jockey, the band taps the renewed energy evident on their last album, Riot Act, with Works for Tomorrow, their 11th studio effort.

Janet Beveridge Bean opens “Vanishing Point” with deft beats and boastful lyrics. Intertwined as well as separate from her partner, guitarist Rick Rizzo, the paired vocals suggest the interplay between Exene and John Doe in X. EDD channels a similar intensity. The title track, the roadhouse rowdy “Cheap Gasoline,” and “Snowblind” follow smartly and loudly. “Go Tell It” settles for a bit of boogie rock; “The People’s History” revisits post-punk. The first half of the album ranks with the band’s best tracks, the record crackling with production that feels as if it were recorded live.

Fellow founding member Doug McCombs (also of Tortoise) adds depth on bass while newer recruit Mark Greenberg on organ adds texture. The band’s most recent addition, Jim Elkington handles not only piano and organ but guitar, the first time the group has added a second guitarist since 1994.

Eleventh Dream Day has long depended on the chemistry between Bean and Rizzo, backed by McCombs. While they never gained the acclaim they deserve, EDD delivers music grounded in heartache, defiance and endurance, blending touches of country, folk, the blues and electronics into their indie-rock. Experimenting with more keyboard-driven arrangements during the past two decades, on Works for Tomorrow they find the right balance between studio exploration of tone and a live commitment to volume. Rizzo and Bean, trading off or alternating voices, enrich this exchange.

As the album goes on, the band settles into slower moods, and the final four songs take their time. “Requiem for 4 Chambers” suits its title, a mournful pace that gives the keyboards more space to sink in. Like many of their past songs, “Deep Lakes” conjures a landscape in winter, desolate but with glimmers of beauty and hope. “End with Me” takes its time as well, opening up room to conclude this brief but deftly played album. When Bean and Rizzo ease into the song before it, the ballad “The Unknowing,” its wistful delivery recalls the longtime indie guitar-drummer pairing of Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo. Like other celebrated indie-rock duos, Eleventh Dream Day finds solace in togetherness, the emotions amassed by decades spent together seeping into the grooves of this feisty, confident album.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

A Stranger Among Saints: by Jonathan Mack

Jonathan Mack derives subtle lessons in relations between refugees and authorities, native…