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What the Hell Do I Know?

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Album Review

Confusingly, Illinois hail not from the Midwest but Pennsylvania, and although you can just make out traces of the Smashing Pumpkins in their music, this geographically confused group looks mostly across the Atlantic for inspiration. Take "Bad Day," which Illinois take straight out of the hands of the Soup Dragons, whose 1990 Brit hit "I'm Free" was, of course, written by the Rolling Stones. "Bad" brilliantly lifts "Free"'s hook, as well as the Dragons' swirly atmosphere and exotic Eastern tinge, but weds them to a phenomenal bass and drum backing, and tosses a long meandering pity-me monologue into the background. This kind of wonderfully dreamy atmosphere imbues much of What the Hell Do I Know?, particularly on the laid-back, pop-flecked "Alone Again" and the gloriously rousing "Headphones." "Screendoor" adds a '70s rock sound to the mix, "One on One" a splendid Phil Spector-ish aura. The swirling atmosphere gives way to gravitas and regal majesty on "What Can I Do for You," an inspired power ballad whose elegant piano passages and synth-strings all scream British Christmas number one. Unfortunately, Illinois are American, so that's unlikely. The group does, however, pay tribute to its own roots with the stomping, banjo-driven, square-dancing-goes-clubbing "Nosebleed." Sheer brilliance that. Add lyrics that range from musing to angsty to melancholic, and this is one impressive set, turning the clock back to a dreamier, more introspective time via a panoply of styles.

Customer Reviews

the pride of bucks county!!

these lads make fantastic music. that's all that needs be said. they are the pride of my childhood home... Bucks County, Pennsylvania!!!!!!! well done!!

From Riding Coattails to Leading Parades

Illinois really is an ear-catcher. The band itself, actually Pennsylvanian natives, know how to compress unique sound and meaning into 3-minutes-or-less Modest Mouse-esque anthems. They have the chance to be "just another band" but they shrug that off with the honesty of emotion and an array of instruments that blast the assumption that they're a pack of unintelligent wannabes. Pick it up. You'll be hard-pressed to put it down.


I first heard them in NYC when they were opening for the Kooks... and honestly, I was too excited to see the Kooks and cared nothing about them. Until I heard them...I bought this EP at the concert (and got it autographed by the guys) and loved every song on it, especially 'Nosebleed' and 'Headphones.' Their music is refreshing and every track has a different, unique tone. I can't wait for their next release.


Formed: Bucks County, PA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Contrary to what the band's name might indicate, Illinois formed in Pennsylvania -- Bucks County to be exact. Comprised of musicians Chris Archibald (vocals, guitar, banjo, keys), Andrew Lee (guitar, keys), Martin Hoeger (bass), and John-Paul Kuyper (drums), Illinois forged a style of indie rock that combined the grit and punchiness of the White Stripes with the easygoing vibe of Arcade Fire. Illinois released their first...
Full Bio
What the Hell Do I Know?, Illinois
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Customer Ratings