Photo by Bryan C. Parker

Yonatan Gat knows dangerous. As the guitarist for Monotonix – banned in many venues in its native Israel – the peril was physical.

“Monotonix ... was dangerous because you could always get hurt – wounded – at the show,” Gat said in a phone interview last week, promoting his eponymous trio’s return to Rozz-Tox on April 1. “This band is very dangerous, but because it’s musically dangerous.”

He later continued that thought: “This is a show that you can close your eyes and listen to the music. In Monotonix, if you close your eyes, a trash can would hit your head. It would be unsafe to close your eyes.”

That’s not to say that the current band – composed of Gat, bassist Sergio Sayeg, and drummer Gal Lazer – is in any way sedate. Your head might be safe from flying trash receptacles, but an ill-prepared brain might still be ducking for cover.

Illustration by Nathan Klaus

In a recent interview, Rock Island County Board Chair Ken “Moose” Maranda trotted out an old saying: “County government is only as good as the taxpayers want it to be.” He continued: “And that’s because of statute. Everything has to go to the public.”

Somewhat charmingly, Maranda actually says “statue” when he means “statute,” but his meaning is still clear: Because Rock Island County is not a home-rule government, it’s constricted by state law in ways many municipalities are not. So if it wants property-tax revenue beyond state caps, it has to get approval from voters via referendum.

The story of Lissie – the Rock Island native who went to California with dreams of stardom that you could hear on two albums, and who then returned to the Midwest and bought an Iowa farm – is captured in the second track on her new album My Wild West, and it’s the emotional and musical retreat you’d expect.

Following an instrumental overture, the largely piano-and-voice “Hollywood” hits obvious notes of regret and pain: “Oh, Hollywood / You broke my heart just because you could.”

The nuances here – the shoulda-known-better admission – do little to justify the song or its foregrounding on the album. Its prominence only begins to make sense when you take the long view of My Wild West.

Like “Hollywood,” the front half of the album feels oddly self-conscious – with over-thought stylistic shifts. But the back end goes a long way toward correcting that, as My Wild West reveals itself to be a lot like most Lissie songs: a patient lull before she unleashes that monster of a voice.

And in that context, the whole begins to make sense as a story with its tentative beginning in Hollywood disappointment. Slowly but surely, Lissie sheds shackles over the course of the album, growing more confident and less burdened. Precise articulations of muted moods give way to anticipated but unpredictable detonations. The record, ultimately, becomes the best and freest long-form expression of Elisabeth Maurus’ forceful performance talent and casual authenticity.

Quad Cities musician and engineer Pat Stolley is not a good interview. He’s plain-spoken and blunt, and when asked last week about the origins of Intricate Maps – the new album from his band The Multiple Cat – his answer couldn’t be more ordinary and pragmatic: “I had a band that was doing stuff.”

In the past, the singer/songwriter/guitarist said, he had difficulty keeping a band together, with people moving away or being less than reliable. But following 2013’s The Return of the Multiple Cat, he had a solid ensemble that wanted to keep working. So it was as simple as the confluence of writing songs and having interest from the local label Cartouche Records in putting them out.

Chalk up Stolley’s manner to preferring creation over discussion. Starting with the opening seconds of lead tracks “Maps” and “David,” the record is dense with pop rock that is precise, detailed, and economical but also organically vital and often joyously catchy.

And while the eight tracks that fit that description would be plenty rewarding, the three “Theme”-titled pieces bridge songs and help shape Intricate Maps into a dynamic, breathing album. Listening to the record’s carefully modulated flow, it’s difficult to take Stolley at his word that his limited time dictates that he use just about everything he writes; it’s a triumph of songwriting, instrumentation, and arrangement dovetailing with smart sequencing and evocative connective tissue.

If the City of Rock Island is unwilling to devote the resources to operate and upgrade the Hauberg Civic Center, it’s hard to imagine a better owner than Bridges Catering.

Bridges – now based in Princeton, Iowa – is an established family company whose owners have deep roots in Rock Island. It plans to renovate and maintain the Hauberg mansion consistent with its historic character, expand public access, and use the site for both food preparation and events with fewer than 100 people. Shifting the mansion, its carriage house, and grounds into Bridges’ hands would add property and sales taxes to Rock Island’s coffers, and eliminate from the budget an event-rental facility (operated by the Parks & Recreation department) whose financial performance is in the red and getting worse.

On February 2, national media and presidential campaigns will decamp from Iowa. The state’s citizens will be freed from the barrage of political advertising, and its media outlets will need to figure out how to fill their news holes.

Ted Cruz or Donald Trump will likely “win” the Republicans’ secret-ballot caucus, with Marco Rubio having an outside shot. Hillary Clinton is poised to “beat” Bernie Sanders in the Democrats’ preference-group caucus system.

And in the short term, those relatively clear results will matter about as much as their grand-scheme relationship to each party’s eventual presidential nominee – barely at all. Instead, the media, pundits, campaigns, and donors will all parse the outcomes against conventional-wisdom guesses about how the candidates were supposed to do.

This muddle partly explains why Iowa and other small early-voting states regularly have their prized positions at the front of the process called into question, criticized, and mocked. In September, for instance, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus told the National Journal that Iowa and New Hampshire should watch their backs after 2016. “I don’t think anyone should get too comfortable,” he said. “I don’t think there should ever be any sacred cows as to the primary process or the order.”

The quadrennial arguments against Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina – the four pre-Super Tuesday states – are familiar: These states are small in population, are unrepresentative of the country as a whole, and exercise an outsize and undue influence over the process of selecting nominees and therefore the president. (See sidebar.)

The criticism of Iowa’s role is amplified because of its first-in-the-nation status and the fact that it’s a caucus state – meaning that poorly attended party meetings with weird (or “quirky” or “arcane”) processes set the table for the remainder of the campaign.

On the other hand, those same criticisms form the foundation of the case for Iowa’s role: The relatively sparsely populated state and its caucus meetings represent a small-scale proving ground for candidates – their organizations, their fundraising, their ability to connect with voters one-on-one, and their stomach for local cuisine. If you can’t do well in Iowa, the thinking goes, you’re not going to do well in the country as a whole.

Yet both sides of the argument ignore a fundamental truth of modern presidential politics: Even if Iowa remains the first contest in the presidential-selection process moving forward, the state’s voters are playing an ever-diminishing role. As much as the state sets in motion the story of the presidential campaign, its people don’t much matter.

Eula Biss

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September cited Volkswagen with programming 11 million cars to evade emissions standards and tests, the first thought of author Eula Biss was unusual: “This is going to be really bad for vaccination.”

Unusual for most people, but fairly typical of Biss, a lecturer at Northwestern University who will speak as part of Augustana College’s River Readings series on January 14. Her 2014 book On Immunity: An Inoculation is about vaccination, but it starts with the story of Achilles and touches on vampires, the environmental classic Silent Spring, semantics, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, anti-bacterial soap, paternalism and sexism in medicine, Kierkegaard, and New Coke among many, many other things.

A 2015 Album

For my 10th-annual album of some favorite songs of the year, the simple rules remain the same, although I cheated a little on both: one song per artist, and no artists represented on previous years' collections.

Photo illustration.

Just to the south of the hulking Stern Beverage beer-distribution warehouse in Milan sits a relatively tiny and decidedly nondescript building. It has massive rocks between the parking lot and the structure that look decorative but are actually a low-tech security measure designed to prevent a smash-and-grab theft.