MySpace was getting old, and Lord knows TCB needs something to fill the long hours between Astros games. Enter Pandora.com, the online crack that crafts custom playlists via its "Music Genome Project," which breaks artists and songs down to chromosomelike components. Radiohead, for example, consists of "a vocal-centric aesthetic, extensive vamping, and a dynamic male vocalist." Pandora begins that strain by linking "Idioteque (live)" to "Sweet Dreams" by Creeper Lagoon descendants On the Speakers, and so forth. How about some of Austin's better known past and present musical exports?
THE GENE GENIE
BUTTHOLE SURFERS: "Punk roots, subtle use of political satire lyrics, repetitive melodic phrasing, mixed acoustic/electric instrumentation."
CHRISTOPHER CROSS: "Mixed acoustic/electric instrumentation, vocal-centric aesthetic, clear focus on recording studio production, melodic songwriting, romantic lyrics."
DERAILERS: "Country roots, subtle vocal harmonies, repetitive melodic phrasing, demanding instrumental part writing, mixed acoustic/electric instrumentation."
JOE ELY: "Repetitive melodic phrasing, major key tonality, dynamic male vocalist."
FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS: "Electric rock instrumentation, blues influences, subtle vocal harmonies, mild rhythmic syncopation."
FASTBALL: "Demanding instrumental part writing, mixed acoustic/electric instrumentation, groove-based composition, melodic songwriting, distinct male lead vocalist."
GOURDS: "Country influences, subtle vocal harmonies, acoustic rhythm piano, mixed acoustic/electric instrumentation, vocal-centric aesthetic."
WILLIE NELSON: "Country roots, acoustic rhythm piano, mixed electric/acoustic instrumentation, major key tonality, subtle use of harmonica."
BOB SCHNEIDER: "Subtle vocal harmonies, mild rhythmic syncopation, repetitive melodic phrasing, mixed acoustic/electric instrumentation, electric rhythm guitars."
SPOON: "Mixed electric/acoustic instrumentation, major key tonality."
TRAIL OF DEAD: "Electric rock instrumentation, punk influences, repetitive melodic phrasing, mixed minor/major key tonality, electric guitar riffs."
It's spring, and there's a lot more than music in the air: namely pollen, mold, pet dander, and countless other irritants that routinely land Austin atop various lists of U.S. allergy hot spots. (Looks like a bad month for oak.) So it wasn't terribly surprising when two of our signature musicians, master songwriter Bruce Robison and his golden-throated wife Kelly Willis, turned up last month in Claritin's national TV ad campaign touting its new nondrowsy formula. This week's Billboard noticed just in time for the release of Robison's Eleven Stories, and he took time out from recording overdubs for Faith Hill songwriter Lori McKenna to talk over the counter.
TCB: What do you think about all the attention you're getting from the ads?
BR: Oh, well, shoot, you know. There's 70,000 records a year coming out, so when we do a record release, we try to get anybody to write about us that we can. It fit into that spot. Anyway, that's the short answer. Any attention is good.
TCB: How did they find you?
BR: I think somebody on the creative side of it might have been a fan of Kelly and myself, and maybe had come to some shows or something. I know they had been developing this spot for a while, and when they called us it was only a matter of a few days before we shot the thing. They did it out at the Backyard. It's just the sort of thing where our agent called us up and said, "Hey, would y'all be interested in doing this?" and we said "Yeah."
TCB: You'd been using Claritin before the commercial, right?
BR: Yeah, I think it's a good product.
TCB: How long?
BR: Ten years maybe, off and on. I couldn't tell you.
TCB: What are you allergic to?
BR: Well. Lot of stuff, my whole life. Mostly cedar and pollens and stuff like that. I did a test a long time ago, but I can't remember what they said. Living here, you know how it is. Everything's going nuts.
TCB: Did you have any side effects?
TCB: Did Claritin give you a bunch of free stuff?
The TABC has decided arresting people in bars isn't such a good idea after all, suspending its controversial Operation Last Call last week after severe criticism from bar owners, patrons, tourism officials, and politicians. Administrator Alan Steen told a House of Representatives Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee hearing Monday that the agency may have implemented the program too hastily and would "retool" it. In related bar news, north Austin honky-tonk Dallas Nite Club filed suit against the TABC for harassment last week.
To whoever abandoned a snare drum, rack tom, and rack mount with woodblock and cowbell(!) on the Chronicle front steps Monday morning: Are you trying to tell us something? And why did you also leave a leaf blower? Come get them or our receptionist Terry Ornelas says they're hers except the cowbell, which TCB is keeping because he's got a fever, and the only prescription...
In case it snuck up on you (like it did TCB), the first round of three-day passes for September's ACL Festival went on sale last weekend. Right now they're running $100 plus a $14 service charge; sign up for the e-list at www.aclfestival.com to prevent future surprises. The lineup won't be announced for another few weeks, but if the Flaming Lips aren't playing, TCB will move to Oklahoma.
Best of luck to the Riverboat Gamblers, who head to New Jersey's Bamboozle festival to appear alongside Method Man after their Waterloo in-store Tuesday; and also to the Crack Pipes, who play the 11th annual Blackoutfest in Athens, Ohio, Saturday. Locals craving a randy garage fix will have to make do with the Sons of Hercules, who storm Woody's South Friday night.
This week UK voters named "One life with each other, sisters, brothers," from U2's "One," the top lyric of all time in a VH1 poll. It edged the Smiths' slightly less optimistic "So you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home, and you cry, and you want to die" from "How Soon Is Now?" but what's the best Austin lyric ever? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
Pinetop Perkins, Austin's 92-year-old living history of the blues, landed in the hospital last week with bleeding ulcers, requiring five pints of blood and an iron infusion. Many people learned of his condition last Tuesday when Elvis Costello sent his best wishes to the pianist from the Bass Concert Hall stage, but Perkins was home by Friday. "He's so resilient, I just went to his house, and he played piano for me," said good friend Clifford Antone. "I've never seen anybody like him; he wants to go out every night. He's a wild man."