Agitated Atmosphere: Don Caballero - Gang Banged with a Headache, and Live

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Don Caballero.

This seems the time to speak of Don Caballero. Not of legacy or canon, but of the reputation. Despite recent mutations and extended silences, Damon Che’s latest ragtag Rembrandts may not harken to the band’s glory days. Those times of mythical yore when dingy clubs were heads-to-shoulders full of sweaty nubile bodies in search of something far from grunge and alterna-mainstream; it was a hard slough and for many, they never found what they were looking for. Others had Don Cab even as times and lineups changed.

Gang Banged with a Headache, and Live captures the 2003 entity (longtime fans may scoff and snort at such a perversion) in live glory. A recorded document that wasn’t made to ever see the light of day, this version of Damon Che’s outfit doesn’t miss a step for those without preconceived notions. Covering the band’s ten year history with reckless abandon, Gang Banged showcases skillful musicians unafraid to cut loose and entertain those huddled Chicago masses who rekindled a love affair with a band and an idea.

More so, this vinyl document lovingly put out by Joyful Noise nears the same bright aura of that 2003 Chicago night in yet another ten year stand of circumstance: it reminds us of the almighty power of good, live music. Not of the spectacle, pop or tabloid, Gang Banged is the recorded document of a band needing to prove itself and the work speaks for itself.

Listen to “Fire Back About Your New Baby’s Sex”

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Che’s drumming is fierce throughout, never letting up or tiring. In turn, his recruits (Gene Doyle, Jeff Ellsworth and Jason Jouver) follow marching orders. Though the album’s one-two cold open of “Fire Back About Your New Baby’s Sex” and “And and and He Lowered the Twin Down” set the tone, it’s the middle of the performance that keeps the needle on the wax. “Delivering the Groceries at 138 Beats Per Minute” is more rebellious than its What Burns Never Returns counterpart, needing to prove itself in the face of bullying and ennui. “Don Caballero 3” follows up with a softer but none-the-kinder melody, the band flowing freely between musical emotions. As the band winds down, the careful timing of “I Never Liked You” never waivers. This may not be the original but it isn’t a cheap facsimile.

Gang Banged may eschew talk of Don Cab’s legend but in the end, it’s all there. Che, no matter who he assembles as fellow merrymakers under the Don Caballero banner, finds kindred souls who will do justice to the music, the kinship and the memories of any fan who isn’t stubborn enough to surrender to petty thought.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. You can also find him on Twitter.

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