Gas Giants don’t compare well

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
February 27, 2000

Let’s face it. Few bands break up and produce better groups for their ex-members.

Judging by the Gas Giants’ concert Friday night at the Park West – as well as their recently released debut album, “From Beyond the Back Burner” – they don’t look like they’re going to disprove this theory.

I know. It’s not fair to compare a new band with the legacy of a group that had years to conjure up a string of hits.

But when you go out of your way to market the Giants as a band that includes former Gin Blossoms’ singer Robin Wilson and drummer Philip Rhodes, then you’re pretty much asking for fans and critics to make comparisons between the two.

And sorry guys, but the Giants fall short.

Not that their material isn’t good. Some of the songs are very memorable, thanks more to Wilson’s distinctive delivery than the music. Wilson’s singing style has wistful, yearning undertones. His voice tremors ever so lightly over syllables, lending even numbers such as “I Hope My Kids Like Marilyn Manson” an innocent quality.

Part of the appeal of Wilson’s voice is that he sounds a little sad no matter what he’s singing. And, in a way, this musical ennui lends depth to material such as “Circus of Stars,” as well as their catchy, nonsensical first single, “Quitter.”

The Gas Giants appear determined to stand on their own merits. They played 11 of the 13 songs on their album. And instead of relying on the Gin Blossoms’ catalog to flesh out the rest of their set list, they opted to cover songs by other artists.

The Giants’ rendition of the Cars’ “Just What I Needed” was a delightful trip back in time.

But Wilson’s duet with guitarist Dan Henzerling on “Under Pressure” showed their limitations. Wilson couldn’t match Freddie Mercury’s high notes. And while Henzerling did a formidable job of aping David Bowie, the combination was anticlimatic.

I suspect that a good chunk of the staid fans were expecting to hear more Blossoms’ tunes. But they had to make do with a perfunctory rendition of “Allison Road.”

Well, most of them, anyhow. One young woman flipped Wilson the bird during a five-song encore of covers that included not one Blossoms’ tune.

In a way, you’ve got to hand it to Wilson. He walked away from a multi-platinum group to form a band with friends he says he has been jonesing to play with for more than a decade.

He obviously didn’t do it for the money.

After a career where he grew accustomed to playing in enormodomes during his Gin Blossoms days, Wilson and his Giants had the dubious honor of opening for a Bon Jovi cover band last year in their hometown of Tempe, Ariz.

Oh, and about that hideous band name of theirs (the silliest thing this side of the Goo Goo Dolls) – think outer space rather than flatulence. The Gas Giants’ bio states that their name refers to planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune).

Some things just don’t make sense.

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