It’s a common story. Band starts small, band finds critical acclaim, band breaks up. Musicians get old–then decide to relive their glory years by re-forming and going on that final tour. The ending, as we all know, is not particularly pleasant. At first glance, the Effigies, the Chicago punk band now back from an ‘80s grave, seem to have followed this tragic path. But as Chicago will see on Saturday night when they play at Reggies, they still have their stuff.
Although punk enthusiasts probably find their name and music familiar, over the years the Effigies have escaped a certain amount of coverage that has probably been due to them. During their heyday in the early and mid-Eighties, the Effigies had a huge following in Chicago and enough of one elsewhere to travel the country in a van putting on, in their own words, “manic live gigs.” But despite this following and their continual citation as one of the driving forces in the development of the Chicago punk scene, the band has been written out of a lot of this era’s history.
Much of the documentation that the hardcore scene inspired and provided a subject for focuses on the coastal cities, looking to New York, Los Angeles, DC, and London for footage and stories. The Midwest punk scenes, specifically those of Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul, have been widely ignored by the more mainstream media coverage. The book “American Hardcore” and its 2006 documentary film counterpart barely touched on Chicago, while 2007’s “Punk’s Not Dead,” a more comprehensive and wide-reaching film as far as interviewees and scope go, didn’t mention the Effigies at all. “Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991,” Michael Azzerad’s 2001 chronicle, gives plenty of credit to the Midwest, but his allotment for the Chicago scene is dedicated primarily to Big Black, a band that achieved more underground success than the Effigies. The only overview that has given proper acknowledgement to the group is “You Weren’t There,” a 2007 film covering Chicago punk from 1977 to 1984, which justly portrays the serious influence that the Effigies’ fist-pumping noise had on both other Chicago bands and the hardcore scene as a whole.
Since their resurrection in 2004, the Effigies have released one full-length LP, “Reside,” bringing their total album count up to five (one of which, “Remains Nonviewable,” is a compilation of early material). Their recent work holds up well to the standards they created for themselves in their more youthful days: banging rhythms, subversive lyrics, barely distinguishable songs, and a thoroughly apathetic attitude towards the mainstream population that has ignored or discredited them. But the Effigies’ new incarnation is less of a revival of their old selves than a natural continuation of them, and it is this that sets them apart from the majority of we’re-back-again bands. A more relaxed and mature angst comes across on “Reside,” seemingly proving that punk does not become irrelevant with age while simultaneously promising that the energy that existed at Effigies live shows in the ‘80s isn’t going to go away just because the performers are now 45 instead of 20. When the Effigies play at Reggies on Saturday, no one present will doubt that punk is alive–they’ll just know that it’s a little bit older.
The Effigies with Dead Town Revival, Hotlips Messiah, Neverland, and Bread and Bottle. February 7. Saturday, 8pm. $7. 17+. reggieslive.com