Witness the new self-titled album by the Chicago quartet Vortisâ€”the group’s fourth full-length, though in many ways a new beginning as the recorded debut of Louie Calvano (bass, guitar, vocals), Jim DeRogatis (drums), Chris Martiniano (guitar, bass, vocals, and art), and Tony Tavano (guitar, vocals).
The band formed in mid-2000, taking its name from the pre-World War I movement spearheaded by writers James Joyce and Ezra Pound and graphic artist Wyndham Lewis. Their goal: “To perpetuate violent structures of adolescent clarity” throughout lifeâ€”that is, to live with the lust for life and joie de vivre of a teenager, which the band members thought was an ideal definition of rock ‘n’ roll half a century before the sound was born. Lewis gave both the original Vorticists and the band they inspired their emblemâ€”the revolving energy cone, a symbol of powerâ€”and his work adorns the cover of Vortis.
The band’s original lineup of DeRogatis, Martiniano, Tavano, and vocalist/lyricist F.T.â€”a.k.a. “the Fellow Traveler,” a.k.a. Michael Weinstein, longtime professor at Purdue University and the author of 23 books of political philosophyâ€”was dedicated to what F.T. called “punk-rock agitainment.” It performed regularly in Chicago and throughout the Midwest and released three albums: Take the System Down (Thick Records, 2002), God Won’t Bless America (Thick Records, 2004), and Warzone (self-released, 2006)â€”after which F.T./Weinstein left to devote all of his creative/anarchist energies to his political writings.
With three vocalists and four songwriters in the current lineup, the music on Vortis is less overtly political but no less thoughtprovoking, and even more intense. Recorded by Dan Dietrich at Wall to Wall Studios after two years of steady gigging in Chicago’s underground, it reflects the band’s well-honed live attack, which has been likened to a speeding freight train threatening to but never quite flying off the rails of its aggressive but melodic, old-school but forward-looking brand of art-punk.