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Zeroes and Ones

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Album Review

In a better world, Eleventh Dream Day would be universally acknowledged as indie rock elder statesmen and one of America's great post-punk guitar bands. They built their reputation on blistering live shows and released a string of albums that rocked as hard as anyone in the late '80s and early '90s. Personnel departures and the proverbial music biz/major-label problems derailed their momentum to the point that EDD became a part-time concern in the mid-'90s, but they never threw in the towel completely and continued to turn out remarkably consistent albums even as the pace slowed. Zeroes and Ones is their first release in six years, but they haven't lost a step. In fact, they sound reinvigorated and tougher than they have in years. Eighth and Stalled Parade both had them slowing the tempos and exploring mood and texture a bit more, but Zeroes and Ones has them bringing the energy back up to where several of the songs here wouldn't sound out of place on Prairie School Freakout, their first full-length album from 1987 — which isn't to say the band has taken a step backwards. This is Mark Greenberg's first recording with the band (although he's been playing live with them for years). His contributions are a bit more prominent throughout than John McEntire's have been on the last couple albums and really help expand the sound. He plays some great organ and Moog, as well as marimba and vibes on one track. "Journey with No Maps" even has some tasty piano and Mellotron, which certainly hasn't been heard on any prior EDD albums. Doug McCombs' bass playing is as muscular and melodic as ever, driving tracks like "Dissolution" and "Lost in the City." Janet Bean only takes one lead vocal, but her paired vocals with Rick Rizzo have always been a key part of their sound. The songs still deal with tension and catharsis, but there's an undercurrent of acceptance here and even some giddy fun in "The Lure." "New Rules" is slow and hypnotic, with plenty of time for a nice, patient solo from Rizzo, who delivers a fantastic, paint-peeling solo on "For Martha" and lets the bile flow on the defiant, bird-flipping "Lately I've Been Thinking." The album ends perfectly with the thoughtful, elegiac "Journey with No Maps." Zeroes and Ones is probably the album that best showcases all sides of Eleventh Dream Day, and might just be their best album yet. Let's just hope it's not another six years until the next one.


Formed: 1983 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The career of the noisy guitar unit Eleventh Dream Day -- one of the most resilient and criminally underappreciated bands to rise from the Midwestern underground community -- was a textbook study in alt-rock endurance; despite a nightmarish major-label tenure, ill-timed roster changes, and commercial indifference, the group persevered, ultimately emerging as elder statesmen of the flourishing Chicago independent scene of the mid-'90s. Eleventh Dream Day's origins dated to 1981, when singer/guitarist...
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Zeroes and Ones, Eleventh Dream Day
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