Review: Meatbodies Serves Up Chewy Riffs for Sunday Night Moshing at Schubas

LA psych rock band Meatbodies included a stop at Schubas Tavern Sunday evening on their tour promoting recent record Flora Ocean Tiger Bloom. Meatbodies don’t stop in Chicago all that often, but it’s not for lack of initiative. Frontman and mastermind Chad Ubovich is an integral cog in the Southern California psych rock factory that's produced acts like Ty Segall, FUZZ, and Mikal Cronin, all of which he is a contributor or touring member. He’s played on countless tours with these acts, including stops in Chicago as a drummer, bassist, guitarist, and now frontman. Operating in so many different capacities with discerning artists like Segall and Cronin, he must be a pretty solid hang in a tour bus or recording studio.

Meatbodies have evolved over the course of their decade of releasing records and touring, graduating from straightforward garage punk miscreants on their self-titled debut (for fans of Thee Oh Sees) to stoner rock wanderers on 2019’s Alice (which shares sonic elements with FUZZ, Ubovich’s other band with Ty Segall). Flora Ocean Tiger Bloom sees the band smoothing the edges on their previous sounds. 

While there are certainly heavier moments, the newer songs have lighter textures and more blissful themes.The similarities to early 90s Smashing Pumpkins (at least sonically) are quite noticeable with shimmery guitars and more melodic vocal affectations. Some of the new tracks sound like Siamese Dream B-sides, which would be more off putting if Meatbodies did not have a proven track record and diverse back catalog to their name. 

Regardless of lyrical content, Ubovich has plenty to be happy about. He was forced to fend off a serious health episode during the pandemic all while in the throes of drug addiction. Given the circumstances, coming out the other side is quite the miracle. Ubovich had to regain motor functions that included his ability to walk and play guitar. Evidently, he's a fast re-learner, because there's plenty of shredding on the new record and even more prolific jamming in their live show. 

After California motorik-experimenters Axis:Sova opened the show with a perplexing and endearing opening set, Meatbodies took little time to get things started. “The Assignment,” off their new record, started with plodding drums and Ubovich’s sandy vocals loosening up the crowd before a deluge of guitars heralded in their quintessential psychedelic ruckus. “Disorder” got the longtime fans moving with the frenetic pace of their earlier punk sound, which brought the first semblance of a mosh pit to the cozy confines of Schubas. 

The band followed with “Silly Cybin,” which is so on-the-nose that it might actually discredit the song. This is unfortunate, because if you simply remove the sophomore lyrics, it's certainly not a bad song. Fortunately, the live presentation was affable enough that the crowd seemed to enjoy what is likely the weakest track on the new album. It should be noted that it certainly felt like a Sunday crowd, with dudes more intent on sipping pale ales and nursing gummies than engaging in any real tomfoolery. The band did have a notable gap on April 20th in their tour itinerary. An unfortunate oversight, given the genre and fanbase. 

"Move" is by far the spaciest track on the new record, and it proved to be the same for Sunday night's set, with a relatively funky bassline that grooves more than most Meatbodies tracks. The sprawling cosmos the band evokes extends the song well past the 8-minute mark, but Ubovich’s yelps and his tight rhythm section manage to keep the crowd fixated on the noodling at hand. After a short break, initiated by the perhaps overzealous bassist breaking a string (which is no small feat), the band launched into “Wahoo” to bring Schubas right back to the garage with the band’s signature raging licks and howling vocals. 

“Disciples,” off of 2019's Alice, sounds by far the most similar to projects like FUZZ, with chewy riffage and didactic vocals. Songs like these wouldn't be inappropriate as the backing tracks to an epic D&D campaign, but they’re fortunately not so overtly geeky that you couldn't bring a date to this concert. "Mountain" sees the band kicked into overdrive, with the fastest grooves and most raucous moments of the set. The closest the crowd got to moshing in earnest happened during the dueling guitar solos and psychedelic freakouts. 

The set closer felt perhaps a little too convincing, as much of the crowd seemed to believe the obligatory but empty words of gratitude and acknowledgement. “Oh, shit. There’s an encore!?” A bearded gentleman yelps as he U-turns with improbable agility from the NHL Playoffs-showing Schubas front bar back to the venue as Meatbodies retook the stage. The band resumes with the slick “Billow” off the new record. This cut sees the band almost delve into shoegaze-esque layers of sound that are definitely fun, but perhaps less urgent than other modes Meatbodies showcases. To reward the heads, Meatbodies closes with the slightly inevitable jammer epic "Fools Fold Their Hands." With climactic soaring guitars and indulgent throwback 70s vocals. All in all, it was a well-constructed set from a very competent band that understands its audience (and vice versa). 

While they certainly aren't the genre-hopping explorers that contemporaries King Gizzard have become, Meatbodies have enough variety across their four records that each installment adds something. And with a thrilling live show to justify respectable festival bookings, Meatbodies are certainly a vital piece of the thriving modern psych rock nebula. If you’re into this sort of music, you’ll inevitably see Chad Ubovich on stage in one capacity or another. Meatbodies inhabit a central place in the canon, and there are worse ways to get your kicks than listening to their wily brand of rock music.

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Patrick Daul