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The unsparing, cello-driven rock of Lung

Thursday, January 2, 10 p.m., Mickey’s Tavern, free. Info

Cincinnati duo Lung, stopping in Madison for a show this Thursday at Mickey’s, plays rock that darts between graceful melody and righteous fury. All the while, cellist/vocalist Kate Wakefield and drummer Daisy Caplan smartly mine the three elements at hand, making the 2018 album All The King’s Horses sound as full and dynamic as it does lean and unencumbered. Wakefield’s electric cello gives the listener a balance of gravelly distortion and the tactile warmth of bows and fingers digging into the strings. On “Spider,” she uses the higher end of the cello’s range to build up suspense, before jabbing into muscular chords that use the instrument’s unbeatable handsome low end. Caplan also accomplishes a great deal on the drums without ever over-playing, whether a given moment calls for a frantic punk-rock sprint (“Brock”) or a whole variety of fractured, galloping rhythms (“Horsebath”). Wakefield’s voice pulls just as much weight, providing songs like “Gun” with a relatively calm center at times, and turning lines like “if you can breathe, you’re doing it wrong” into unnervingly agreeable refrains.

All The King’s Horses builds on the promise of Lung’s 2017 debut album, Bottom Of The Barrel, while placing a more overt emphasis on social and political themes. “Brock” uses very few words to etch an acidic portrait of the case of Brock Turner, a Stanford University student athlete who was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman and got away with a slap on the wrist: “Your Honor please, I am doing the best I can,” Wakefield sings, pushing her voice to a grisly border between sarcasm and outrage. The album’s title track expands on that exploration of power and privilege: “All the king’s liars / And all the king’s men / They are pissing on playgrounds / They got from their fathers / Guess I should’ve known better,” goes one chorus, set to a demented waltz. Even a cover of David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid Of Americans,” with its lyrics modified to refer to Donald Trump, basically works amid Lung’s portrait of a depraved and violent society.

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Lung also recently finished mixing its third album, so hopefully this show will be a chance to preview some new songs from this mighty but compact outfit. Milwaukee’s Conan Neutron & The Secret Friends plays burly hard rock with an unabashed love of bright hooks. Madison duo Daughters Of St. Crispin play eerie post-hardcore with a drum machine. The project’s 2019 debut EP earned some notice in Tone Madison‘s year-end music coverage, with contributor John McCracken calling it “a menacing, foreboding machine slowly clinking and crawling towards its victims.”

Photo by Bill Cunningham.

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