Local Wire

Call Me Lightning

No one's questioning the Badger State's musical cred. After all, who among us is not devoted to the band Squirrel Bait or the vaudeville novelty hit "Mention My Name in Sheboygan"? But until 2004, Wisconsin seemed not to have a music scene vital enough to escape the state's web of rivers and snowmobile highways. While bands like Modern Machines and the Fragments have been developing a typically scruffy Midwestern punk-pop style, Call Me Lightning would be an anomaly in any part of the country. The Milwaukee trio's major influence is the Minutemen -- the least imitable of American hardcore bands -- and its album weaves jazz rhythms into catchy riff experiments with an updated attack tight enough to border on the metallic. Granted, Nathan Lilley's poetical lyrics are too sketchy to call political, and unlike the Minutemen's soulful D. Boon, his vocals often reach wheezy extremes that speak less of passionate punk than art-rock. But when the melody revs at a twisted, hard-funk clip, you can finally hear a Midwestern city besides Detroit hammering itself back onto the musical map.