Eleventh Dream Day

Buy or cry

This great, great band, whose name should be on every schoolgirl's lips, has been around for 23 years and released its first record almost two decades ago, yet it seems to be legendary only among the better sort of rock writers. Eleventh Dream Day is the only band I've ever heard that has taken Neil Young's Crazy Horse sound further -- improved upon it and used it toward innovations in the rock-song form. They have been repaid for their efforts with undeserved obscurity, due in large part to clueless handling by Atlantic in the late '80s and early '90s, when they were recording songs that should have conquered the nation. Since squeezing out of its major-label contract in the mid-'90s, EDD has been making abstract sound records that, while excellent, are not going to win over anyone not already committed to the band's genius.

But here they are in 2006 with an album of brilliant songs. Lead guitarist and singer Rick Rizzo's instrumental and songwriting fire is undiminished, and Janet Beveridge Bean (who I'm told used to riddle patrons when she was bartending in Chicago: "What's a beverage and also a bean?") can still take over a song with her harmonies. Douglas McCombs's bass lines are busier than I remember them, but maybe he's just been brought up in the mix. Only a band this gifted and experienced can at once rock in the Nuggets style and plumb the depths of despair as EDD does on "Lately I've Been Thinking." And so what if the instrumental part of "New Rules" sounds just like "Cortez the Killer"? Who else is doing anything worthwhile with that sort of beauty? I, for one, am flying to Chicago to see one of their rare performances later this month. Buy or cry, Jim.

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