Aimless Blades: Real Rock 'n' Roll Local Music By David Luhrssen Nowadays rock is everywhere. Real rock 'n' roll, however, has become a rarefied taste. It may be going the way of the connoisseur, the path of bebop and pinot noir. Meanwhile, Milwaukee's Aimless Blades are doing their part to keep rock 'n' roll alive and in the moment, delivered with unpretentious intelligence and grit, with their fourth CD, Rara Avis. Released on Madison's famed Boat Records, Rara Avis features guitar riffs of surging melancholy over solid yet forward rolling rhythms. The lyrics suggest more than they say, opening the window in the listeners' imagination that began to close with the advent of literal-minded music videos. There are echoes of swampy Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Stooges' serrated psychedelia, Bob Dylan's husky twang, even the stately folk rock of Fairport Convention. With the exception of two live tracks first heard on WMSE, Rara Avis was recorded in the basement of guitarist Scott Krueger. 'We're very low-fi,' says drummer Jim Richardson. 'Other than the keyboards, it's all retro equipment, state of the art circa 1972.' Richardson is a veteran of Milwaukee alternative rock from long before the term was coined. He played in The Craze with Howie Epstein before Epstein left town to join Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Richardson and Krueger were in The Shivvers, a power pop band from the New Wave era. Keyboardist Paul Setser was in McTavish and a host of other bands and bassist Angela V-Elles played in The Mercurys. The Aimless Blades began as a recording project by guitarist Blaine Schultz. After leaving the locally popular Mona Lisa Overdrive in the mid-'90s, Schultz released a string of cassette albums with a floating lineup of musicians under the Blades' banner. About 10 years ago, a steady gigging band coalesced around Schultz. The lineup has been consistent since Richardson joined six years ago. 'Everyone in the band is a huge music fan,' Schultz says. 'But for me, Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground and Hank Williams were the people who developed this music the best. They're way ahead of me on the road, but I'm on that same road.' Although everyone but Richardson contributes to the songwriting, the Blades' other principal writer, Krueger, brings a more melodic, Beatles jangle to the mix. Rara Avis includes a gaggle of guest vocalists and horn players, including the Shepherd Express' Rip Tenor on saxophone. Richardson thinks it's the Blades' best yet. 'It sounds more like we sound live,' he explains. 'It feels like an album, not a collection of songs. It really holds together.'