Recent Photo

Recent Photo

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2002

Chicago, Illinois, United States
Established on Jan, 2002
Band Pop Rock




"Sadly Smothered Talent"

[A Review of the "Glome EP"]

Derek Wu, formerly part of a handful of Chicago-area bands (including Food, Mant, Peep and Phenomenal Cat), here surfaces as a one-man band of sorts. This collection of songs -- consisting of his off-key vocal warble and some harshly distorted bass welded to anemic, low-mixed drum treatments -- carries the suspicious whiff of a project still in the early stages of development. As a result, it's a patchy, scrapbook-like affair. When it works best, as on the "The Slightest Slight", Wu comes across as a songwriter armed with a capable, considerably itchy talent for battered noise-pop. Sadly, Wu's championing of horrendously full-frontal bass distortion, only serves to undo many of his worthiest songwriting moments. The curiously catchy "Too Odd To Be A Star", for example, sounds like a great pop song that's struggling for air in amid swathes of low-end noise, and "Better Think Ahead" and "Love By Design" suffer similar fates. Here's hoping that Recent Photo is indeed something of a work in progress, as there's talent here that desperately needs harnessing.

-- Allan Harrison (February, 2004)
- Splendid Ezine

"Haphazard Pop Brilliance"

[A review of "The Monster Within"]

Released 22/07/05

As is the case with all countries, the old US of A contains both good things and bad things. In the former category, we have the Declaration of Independence, rock ‘n’ roll, hip-hop, most good films, some very large sandwiches, The Onion and several sit-coms. In the latter, we have the current administration which, it seems, will not be content until pretty much everyone is dead.

The Monster Within is a bit like its country of origin in as much as it’s something of a mixed bag; although in its favour it contains nothing as distasteful as Messrs Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, and the rest of that whole crazy gang. The album kicks off with the very lo-fi, ramshackle ‘The Slightest Slight’, closely followed by the more subdued ‘A Small Crumb’ (both of which each last around two minutes), before going abruptly RAWK!, in an indie kinda way, on our asses with the Ten Benson-like ‘BMX Motorcade’.

In the unlikely event that I were forced to sum up the record in one word (and some might argue that would make for a preferable reviewing approach), it would be “haphazard”: both in terms of style and, well, quality. ‘Gigantaur Obscura’ and ‘Clouds in your Room’ both had me scrawling the dreaded word “DIRGE” in what I laughingly refer to as my notes, while ‘Common Mind’ is just annoying and goes on for far too long (almost five minutes! Blee!).

On the other hand, there are some great tunes here: ‘Love My Keyboard’ sounds like Denim or the soundtrack to an old-skool video game (high praise indeed). ‘Criminal Boy’ is lo-fi indie-pop sung by a female guest vocalist complete with whirring noises and the excellent chorus “Guilty boy / Got me out of my mind / Guilty boy / Got a nice behind”. ‘Hi Love You’, meanwhile, sounds a bit like the Kills attempting Britpop, if the very idea of that doesn’t make you want to actually vomit.

This is Chicago-based three-piece Recent Photo’s debut release, and on the evidence available here, things could go either way: there’s plenty to suggest their second album could well be amazing, or they could remain one of those defiantly quirky outfits whose occasional forays into pop brilliance makes the whole enterprise worthwhile. Either way, for the time being, there’s lots of stuff on this CD to keep the likes of me entertained. (They also sound like they might be really good live, should they ever make the trek over to this sceptred isle).

The Monster Within comes to a fitting close with the lighters-aloft anthem ‘Too Odd To Be A Star’; which seems to sum things up much better than I ever could.

Mat Beal - 7/10
- - 1/06

"Scary - Evil - Like It!"

[A review of "The Monster Within"]

"A modest yet ambitious concept album that uses lowkey (but densely layered) pop to explore evil. I like the use of evil deep voices to be extra scary. And sometimes the guy affects a near-English accent to convey gravity. A fun journey to nasty."

-Flamin' Waymon Timbsdayle (October 2005) - Roctober

"Very Fun Record - Six Out of Seven Sponges"

Recording: The Monster Within
Artist: Recent Photo
Label: self-released
Release Date: 11.July.2005
Reviewed by: PostLibyan

Review: Recent Photo are a Chicago-area quirky pop band that sent us this promo several months ago. It's a shame i haven't reviewed it until now, because this is some fun and enjoyable music. It isn't deep stuff though, and post-rockers will find the music trite, but for those of looking for something with a catchy beat and oddball lyrics, The Monster Within is a worthwhile album.

From what i can tell on the band's website, Recent Photo is based around one Derek Wu, a refugee from numerous other Chicago acts that i haven't heard of. He made the music on this CD with bass, vocals, a drum machine, and the help of numerous guests. His quirky melodies and competent sense of rhythm, coupled with his deep voice, make this record play like a lighter version of The Magnetic Fields, and i do not toss that comparison around lightly. This is music made with more charm than technical prowess, especially in the recording arts. It has a great sense of melody, some catchy rhythms, clever lyrics, and a general upbeat attitude.

The best song on the disc has to be Love My Keyboard, which is a love song to the new keyboard Mr. Wu obviously acquired just before writing the tune. It has a cheesy drum machine riff (a preset on the keyboard, no doubt), and a happy rolling bass riff. The end result is Stephin Merrit meets Electronic Renaissance, which is a good thing really.

Another really great tune, sure to be a staple of mix CDs for years to come, is the aptly titled Bullshit, wherein Mr. Wu rants about stuff in his life that is, well, bullshit. "Show seven forms of ID???" he sings incredulously and disgustedly at the same time. This song is not angry, but rather frustrated and annoyed. Wu sings over a nice bass part and a really catchy drum beat. Minimal, kind of bitchy, and fun. Good stuff.

But there are more sounds here than just drum machine and bass. There is a great fuzzed out guitar line on Small Crumb, A, and another distorted guitar pairing with a female guest vocalist on Criminal Boy. Wu's voice has a decent range, at times reminding me of The Jazz Butcher (Derailment) and at others of David Bowie (the epic monster movie theme song, Gigantor Obscura). The album is pretty eclectic, and that keeps things interesting.

Overall, this is a very fun record, and i mean that as compliment. Mr. Wu has crafted a fine album. He is not going to change the world with this album, or inspire people to deep thoughts and personal introspection, but he has made a record that you can tap your feet to and laugh along with. That is certainly an achievement. I hope he keeps at it. The world needs more levity. - PostLibyan/Evil Sponge


The Monster Within CD/LP (June 2005)
Glome EP/CD-R (2003)
Morality Plays/CD-R (Derek Solo - 2001)
Music for Unrealized Cartoons (Joe Solo - 2005)



Recent Photo is a Chicago-based pop-rock group fronted by bassist, vocalist, and principal songwriter Derek Wu. A classically-trained cellist, Derek switched to bass in his late teens, serving as a bassist, vocalist, and/or contributing songwriter with several Chicago-area bands including Mant, Peep, Food and Phenomenal Cat. In the early '00s, he stumbled upon a crop of new songs, which prompted him to test the material at various Chicago-area open mic nights. Encouraged by the response (despite his initial difficulty pulling off the spare vocal and bass arrangements) he documented eight songs in a grainy, home-recorded folk-pop release he called "Morality Plays" (2001), under his then-stage name William Bing. All twenty or so copies of the release were given away to friends.

In 2003, after a few years of honing his act as a singing bassist, Derek recruited multi-instrumentalist and open mic buddy Brad Eakins (Exploding Ticket, Canteen) to help on drums, and the two quickly put out a seven-song EP called Glome, another scrappy lo-fi recording save for two songs recorded by Mike Lust (of Tight Phantomz) at Phantom Manor. The Glome EP was submitted for review only to Splendid E-Zine and local music rag Illinois Entertainer. The fledgling band was buoyed by (mostly) kind words from Splendid, which noted Derek's "capable, considerably itchy talent for battered noise-pop" and urged that "there's talent here that desperately needs harnessing." Illinois Entertainer, for its part, found little of value in the release.

The Glome EP, like "Morality Plays," went largely unheard due to lack of pressings and promotion, not to mention the dominance of "horrendously full-frontal bass distortion" (quoting Splendid). Sonic deficiencies aside, the EP was subsequently re-released on Chicago band PAL's Free Music imprint and features lead track "Too Odd to be a Star," described by Splendid as "a great pop song struggling for air amid swathes of low end noise."

By 2004, the twosome became a trio when Joe Mason (ex-Tinkerband, Gunshop) joined to integrate theremin, vintage drum machines, and other myriad noise elements. In mid-2005, the band quietly released a full-length CD/LP called "The Monster Within" that was lauded by Roctober Magazine as a "fun journey to nasty" and by British online zine Tiny Voices for its "forays into pop brilliance." An interesting, quirky pop album also featuring instrumental contributions by Mike Lust of Tight Phantomz (guitar), Steve Delisi of Phenomenal Cat and Thin Cherries (guitar), Bill Talsma formerly of Ribbon Effect and Motorhome (drums), and vocalist Emma Grace Ketner, the record stoked the interest of key Chicago music venues such as Empty Bottle, Double Door, Beat Kitchen, Bottom Lounge, Darkroom, and Subterranean.

Soon after the CD release, Brad left the band to focus on his own new project Canteen. Derek's old friend Candy Lane (of new Chicago band Metapuffs) eventually took over on drums and backing vocals and Candy's beau (and fellow Metapuff) Tris Lucas grabbed the mantle of lead and rhythm guitars from his predecessor Johnny Action (Fuzzy Substrate, Harbinger), who had relocated to New York for law school. The end result was a lively and quirky noise-pop-rock lineup.

A grimly-titled album featuring songs Derek composed while weathering a tough divorce, "The Monster Within" is surprisingly upbeat. Mike Lust and Andy Bosnak recorded the album at Phantom Manor in Chicago, except for a few tunes recorded on a 4-track, with mastering by Mike Hagler. Soon after the band recorded a few new tracks, "Her Signs Are" and "This Whole Time," Tris and Candy ventured off to the west coast, and Derek started a family in Chicagoland. Save for the occasional gig by "Wallet-Sized Photo," Joe and Derek's two-man version of the band, or Derek’s rhythmic folk act “Brother Derek,” the band has been on hiatus since 2008, save for the release in early 2019 of the two aforementioned “new” tracks. 

As for the group's aesthetic, possible reference points or inspirations are early Eno, early Bee Gees, Voidoids, mid-period Beatles, Soft Boys, Husker Du, Blur, Deep Purple, XTC, Fleetwood Mac, Magnetic Fields, ELO, Tall Dwarfs, and other melody-driven groups. But there is no substitute for experiencing the band, or at least the record, first-hand. It's available at select Chicago-area record stores and online at BandCamp,,, Spotify, and ITunes.

Band Members