Texas Platters


In the Water

In the liner notes to In the Water, Lisa Tingle thanks the Peach Pit After Dark. No, that's a joke, but the record was produced by David Silverman. Okay, that's a joke, too, but if you even understood those references you should probably get out more often, and realize that when you do finally get out you'll probably want to go someplace other than where Tingle is playing. Tingle does have quite the rich and powerful voice, but that only fills the major prerequisite. In the Water just feels very Nashville, not in genre but in believability. Despite what the songwriting credits report, it sounds like Tingle is singing someone else's words. Play this album for Little Sister fans, as they might cotton to it as an ultra-slick "More Free Love and Watered-Down Nickel Beer," just don't play it around a bunch of Cartesian dualists as it might cause them to seriously rethink their position on the whole mind-body thing. Translation: It ain't got no soul.
1.5 stars -- Michael Bertin


Try Japanese Fast Food (Pope Yes)

To those of you jonesing for a bit of Gals Panic, the arrival of Missile Command is an event to be heralded. I'm not one of you, but I do think at least a little celebration is in order. Featuring member(s) from that disbanded assemblage of high energy punk/ska-funnymen, Missile Command has a new sound that draws as much from Bad Religion for the uncanny vocal similarities as it does from Let's Go Bowling or even Rancid for the ska bounce. "Victory at Sea" is good, the verses and choruses joined by a series of interesting bridges that owe their complexity to ska, and while the band may seem like a California import, the image in "Shorty" of "sitting here in Texas eating Mexican food for breakfast at a taco stand across from the highway" keeps things from becoming too SoCal. There are elements of Gals Panic here, most notably the sense of humor, but the vocals and the melodies are much more palatable in this grouping. Try Japanese Fast Food offers five solid songs from a band who will hopefully make more.
2.5 stars -- Christopher Hess


NeckOrNothing (Idol)

Sort of like Veruca Salt, Dallas' Pervis features two women, Cristina Harrison and Rachael Strauss, on alternating lead vocals while behind them, an all-male team of musicians -- bassist Lee Bewley, drummer Harden Harrison, and guitarist Eric Schmidt -- churns out chunks of guitar rock at various speeds. The ladies' lead vocal tag-teaming creates an almost hip-hop, self-reflexive energy, vaulting the music over patches of spotty songwriting and rote lyrics; the guys make even the most pedestrian punk-metal hybrids more than an exercise simply by not trying too hard. Even on CD, the band has chemistry to burn. What they could use is a decent production job, however; even when they're approximating hardcore, the guitars don't have much grit, the drums are consistently snare-heavy and tinny, and the lower three bass strings might as well not be there. At least all that can be fixed, and the rest of it really ain't that broke.
2.5 stars -- Christopher Gray


For the Moment (Heart Music)

Saxophonist Elias Haslanger is no stranger to the live process. He's been a mainstay on the local scene for several years now since returning from a short stint in NYC. In fact, you can usually find him playing around town any given week with the same core of musicians joining him on this live session. The date, Haslanger's third recording project as a leader, catches his fiery quartet on a memorable night at the Elephant Room in March, 1996 (save for one track recorded six months earlier at Cedar Street). I was hoping to hear more original material than just the title track, but the inclusion of Coltrane's "Miles' Mode" and McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance" are certainly in step with the group's modern proclivities and balance out more traditional fare like "Cherokee" and "Stella by Starlight." The quartet packs a potent one-two punch with Haslanger's agile sax lines and the remarkable Fredrick Sanders' flowing pianistics complementing each other wonderfully. Drummer J.J. Johnson and bassist Edwin Livingston have been working together steadily for a while and show why they form perhaps the tightest young rhythm tandem in town. Haslanger & Co. are continually growing as musicians. This fine slice of Austin jazz is a snapshot of how they sounded for the moment.
3.0 stars -- Jay Trachtenberg


Soft Effects EP (Matador)


Hedfones (Trance Syndicate)

The music industry has long regarded the EP as a wash. Longer than a single, but shorter than an album, the "Extended Play" is seen as a stopgap for a real release, a lame timekiller -- like the live album or worse yet, a greatest hits package. To complicate matters further, no one knows what to charge for the damn things. What to do then with the first great local releases of 1997? Toss 'em,
I guess. After all, the five songs on Spoon's
21-minute Soft Effects EP were originally intended as B-sides for singles from Telephono. Who gives a flying rat shit if they'll bury the heinous Pixies references once and for all or that "Mountain to Sound," with another series of Britt Daniel ginsu riffs, is as good (if not better) as anything on the full-length, or that "Waiting for the Kid to Come Out" is the real ode to the Electric Lounge that Wesley Willis will never write. "Loss Leaders"? The best single not on Telephono. And what about the Furry Things' 43-minute "EP," Hedfones? Seeing as Ken Gibson has transplanted his bloody valentine from the group's debut, The Big Saturday Illusion, and replaced it with an "ambient" pacemaker that pulses warm and steady, like the new EP's hypnotic, 12-minute centerpiece, "Piece No. 3 in C," why Hedfones couldn't be anything but a stopgap. (Or is that stopgaff?) Sure, it's more cohesive than the debut, but the fact that this exciting young band will move far beyond even this beguiling departure on their next release means this one's just a waste of your time. No, the industry is right. These things are a waste of time. Just like Sincola's Rise Records EP.
(Both) 4.0 stars -- Raoul Hernandez



Tribute albums are pointless rehashes of songs that were fine the first time or don't deserve further attention, right? Well, that's usually the case, but this tribute to the Seventies U.K. pop band Badfinger, assembled mostly by Austinites for the Houston-based Copper label, bucks the trend. Lovingly put together, this collection of international acts takes more good songs than you thought Badfinger had and gives back -- if not always astonishing -- at least uniformly listenable versions of them; from Adrian Belew's no-piano version of "Come and Get It" all the way through Badfinger's old Apple Records' labelmates Lon and Derrek Van Eaton's George Harrison-ish take on "Apple of My Eye." The locals provide plenty of color, too: Cotton Mather's "Flying" teases with a cheap Lowery Fun Machine beat, and the Plimsouls (including Austin's Eddie Muñoz), following the band's name rather than their milieu, put "Suitcase" in a blues bag. If you've been waiting for a positive trend in tribute albums, this is the one to check out. And you better hurry, because it may not last.
3.5 stars -- Ken Lieck


Kind Hearted Woman (Private Music)
Mercury Poise (Mercury)

Go ahead. Take the easy way out with Mercury Poise. Buy the damn greatest hits record. Just let me try to ruin it for you first. It's a ploy all the way around. Usually the artists are just doing these to fulfill their contracts with one record label so they can jump to another. The label knows it; but they also know that you the consumer are thinking, "Well, I really like these five songs, and I don't want to have to buy five different CDs to get them," so they've got no problems with schlepping this variety of musical extravaganza. But, if acting in an economically expedient manner makes you happy, then buy Mercury Poise anyway because it does more or less contain those five songs you are looking for ("Anchorage," "Come a Long Way," "If Love Was a Train," "On the Greener Side," and "Prodigal Daughter"); and in 10 or 15 years when the box set comes out you can get the two worthy songs off Kind Hearted Woman (most likely "No Sign of Rain" and "The Hard Way") without ever having to buy it. That'd be a minor shame though, because then you might never hear the hallow irony of "Cold Comfort" or the delicate remorse of "A Child Like Grace." You'd never know the full beauty of Shocked's most sullen and stark recording (save for the original, undecorated, non-commercial version of the same album, which featured just Shocked and guitar). See, with greatest hits records you miss out on most of the music, all of the context, and a host of other goodies. For instance, if you only pick up Mercury Poise, you won't even get to know the "Secret to a Long Life."
(Both) 3.0 stars -- Michael Bertin


Planet of Forbidden Delights

On a night of 1,000 bands, you'll usually find the perpetrators of this CD compilation safely hidden away at warehouse parties or liberated dives like the Blue Flamingo. The intrinsic tendency of the four bands inhabiting the Planet of Forbidden Delights is to free-fall between the cracks of genres, scenes, and playlists. Instead, they revel in a provocative and unbridled spirit of experimentation that propels them light years beyond their earth-bound brethren. 23 Aliens sounds a bit like Devo and Ween after a few cocktails and a naked winter sprint through the woods. The lo-tech basement futurisms on songs like "Alien Food" and "Wet Pussy" are sure to annoy all the right people. Dizzyluna's "Halleighluhjah" conquers new frontiers with all the post-hippy dadaist fervor of a Zoogz Rift sermon on the Secret Marines, and the Girl Robots' "Man Without a Gun" exhumes the Carrie Nations' hyperdramatic psych-pop along with the impassioned off-Broadway delivery of Rado and Ragni. If commercial radio was forced at gunpoint to play one band from this album, it would probably be Olive. The sextet's "Let's Make a Deal" achieves bliss by combining the ethereal hum of Lush with Poly Styrene squeals and Olympia DIY ambience. Each act here carves out its own distinct identity, but taken together, the sound of an emerging collective looms large.
3.5 stars -- Greg Beets


The Rest Is Silence

Caveat emptor: Beware of bands quoting Shakespeare. Avoid them like a 15-part Masterpiece Theatre series starring William Shatner as Henry IV, V, and VI. This annoying Better Than Ezra/Toad the Wet Sprocket radio treacle is total MOR, an acronym meaning approximately "syphilis." Twice as long as it should have been, and twice as produced, Silence utterly lacks any kind of solid hooks or pure pop impulse. Any good instinct the band has -- and, to be fair, there are a few -- is quickly swallowed in the labyrinth of instrumental ejaculation and prog-rock showboating. It's totally devoid of any center or edge, a smoothed-over melange the likes of which should have died with ELP, Rush, and Journey, but seems to recycle itself generation to generation like a bad sitcom concept. Hamlet spoke the title before shuffling off his mortal coil for good; here, hopefully, the words are equally prophetic.
1.0 star -- Christopher Gray


Caucasia (Sideffects Music)

Poor Yorick have been around a long time. The quality of the musicianship, the often intricate songs they write, and the myriad styles they incorporate into a single album can attest to that as each of band member offers his own distinct vision to the collective. In other words, there's a lot going on throughout Caucasia, their second release. Unfortunately, for those of us who are not already fans of the band, there's too much going on. The drama of "Hanging by a Thread," in its forecasting of inevitable personal breakdown, is lost in the cheekiness of the background lyrics; the dirty blues of "Hoodoo" trashed by the intrusion of a seeming duet between Louis Armstrong on nitrous and Moon Unit Zappa. Mostly this album pissed me off as the beginning of every track provided a viable opportunity for me to really like an entire song (with the completely dreadful exception of the title track), until the band dashed that hope with their overblown sense of wit. There is such a thing as being too clever. "Doo Da in Karmaville" and "Ruby Lee" provide a couple shining moments, but for the most part the album is caught in a funnel: so much is being poured in so fast that only a few drops can come out. And now Poor Yorick are no more, which may be a good thing, as the individual efforts can only add up to more than the sum of the parts.
2.0 stars -- Christopher Hess


Long Pathetic Story

Bottom. Beer-splattered, ramshackle dive rock like this doesn't happen without bottom. And producer John Croslin knows how to get bottom, knows how to make the bass and drums pound you in the stomach 'til you hit the mat. Left, right, left, right, left, right; Brit Jones and Scot Hickman hammer at you with their combo guitars, backing you into the turnbuckle with a force not seen since before George Forman lost his terrifying prowess to Muhammed Ali in the "Rumble in the Jungle." There's not a terrible amount of finesse here -- which isn't to say it's sloppy -- and "Motivated" does stick to the ribs pretty well, but with a flurry of riffs this great, the marks that are left aren't the songs. It's the bottom, the same type of hard-muscled stomping you received at the hands of the True Believers at the Continental Club or The Wannabes at the Hole in the Wall. The fight only goes 7 rounds -- 22 minutes -- but this Long Pathetic Story ends with a knock-out. Fat-bottom boys, you making the rockin' world go 'round.
3.0 stars -- Raoul Hernandez


(White Cat)

More Nashville. Lyrically it has the occasional turn of a paradox-based phrase ("Making a living is going to be the death of me"), as well as clichés and other over-worked stock expressions ("wear your heart on your sleeve," "let the good times roll," "they're playing our song," etc.). There's even some train imagery. Musically, it could just as well be a Travis Tritt record, although the harmonized guitar melodies sound dangerously close to something lifted from Skynyrd or Boston. It's all very peculiar because this is a self-produced effort on a tiny label, and normally the horror stories are about how the record company pressured the artist to make something that sounds this belt buckle. No such forces at work here. It's Nashville alright. At least it doesn't have Garth Brooks' bad taste in clothing or Billy Ray Cyrus' white-trash hair cut. Saunders dedicates the record to the memory of Walter Hyatt. It's a nice gesture, but an even better one would have been to make a record more becoming of Hyatt's legacy.
2.0 stars -- Michael Bertin


(Spanish Fly)

On last year's Scene, Heard Volume 2 -- a cross-genre-ational compilation of new Dallas-area artists -- REO Speedealer looked like a genius concept; the speed metal middleground of El Vez and the Butthole Surfers. That song, "Viva La Vulva," re-appears here on their full-length debut, only it's surrounded by so much sketchy bullshit that it's rendered nearly useless. In fact, this whole affair is sadly disposable, from the underwritten songs lacking both focus and hooks to lo-fi production and buried vocals. And if the short blasts like "Cocaine Joey," "Dealer's Choice," "They Is as They Does," or "My Headers Are Hot," look to be on paper somehow indicative of a bigger joke, then the first listen proves they're simply set-ups with no punchlines -- so tragic for a band, that regardless of their output, will still have a lock on the state's best band name.
1.5 stars -- Andy Langer


Illusionation (DMZ)

Billy White's Sistershootingstar EP was a nice start, but for the first time outside his live play, Austin's über-guitarist has found dynamics -- the elusive balances of soul and crunch, song and solo, groove and texture. Even better, White's also found a singing voice to match his songwriting voice, mellow enough to ride the acoustic wave of "We All Want to Live Together" or "No Other," and full enough to battle his own wall of noise on "13 Second Blackout" and "Twelve." But the real numerology here is three, as in a busy, but airtight, trio that's equally fluid and cohesive in both of the sessions that comprise this record -- the first with ex-Joe Rockhead bassist Steve Bernal, and the later with Brian Walsh. And while there's still a few too many bloated tracks over five minutes, there's still also more than enough guitar wizardry and subtle melodies to hold attention. If only Illusionation wasn't so hard to find as an import-only, this would indeed be the full-length debut introduction White so deserves.
3.5 stars -- Andy Langer


Societal Jive (Jasmine)

Locals Plow Monday play good metal, and I don't use that word as a profanity. The guitars are tight and the bass is clean (usually playing the same lines), backed by highly cymbal-ic crashing drums. They have the major time changes, the strumming lulls, and the explosive breaks. So it is metal, but they're also just a trio with a full sound -- a full sound and some good songs. "Pangea" is a big tune with two of the more interesting breaks on the album; it only lacks a guest vocal from Bruce Dickinson or Chris Cornell. The lyrics, especially in "Questions," reveal a slightly naïve contemplation of society and its ills without coming off as self-important or, at the other end, ignorant. In the guitar parts, Plow Monday often resemble many metal bands of the post-glam, punk-influenced variety, but they don't overextend themselves or their sound. Obvious comparisons to Pearl Jam or Soundgarden are not inaccurate, but they are incomplete (this is no mere Seven Mary Three). In keeping it simple, they allow the strengths of their playing and of the lyrics to be the prominent features. Sometimes it gets away from them, like "Seeing Double" or the strangely mixed background vocals in "Throwdown," but for the most part it's an impressive first effort.
3.0 stars -- Christopher Hess

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