It's been too long since local pop/punk stalwarts in Stretford
committed themselves to vinyl. Although we're still waiting on their second full-length, Long Distance
, the new three-song Vice
EP (Framed!) ends the dry spell with panache. The title track, penned by saxwoman Cynthia Sadler, is a walk into the decadent world of meet-market one-nighters that's infectious in more ways than one. The horn charts would do a high school marching band director proud, and the punchy chorus ("I kind of like it/I kind of need it/I've got to have it") resonates with sexual sneer power. Side two features an excellent cover of the Monkees' 1968 hit "Valleri" and the Spanish-language version of Stretford's own "I Used to Know" (aka
"Nena Que Conocí"). Manchester-bred vocalist Carl Normal approaches the task with the same novel aplomb Micky Dolenz used when singing the Monkees' theme in Italian. Houston's Junior Varsity
are awash in perfect lo-fi gimmickry and can't-miss sing-alongs on their Pep Rally Rock
EP (Twist Like This). Their elusive feelgood take on high school comes straight out of Frankie and Annette movies and Saved by the Bell
reruns. One-minute gems like "1 X 1" and "Bobby the Beatnik" rock toward deliverance on the power of a popcorn fart. JV's contagious spirit makes you feel stupid for hanging out in the smoking area during pep rallies. Back in Austin, Hotwheels Jr!
contrasts romantic pop radio idealism with a mid-Eighties Twin/Tone-style, us-against-them vibe. There's no shortage of bass-driven, frayed-at-the-knees hooks on the quartet's Bothers Me!
7-inch (self-released), but the namesake song gets a bit overwrought during its more distorted passages. The intelligent king-hell rock dynamics of "Lapse" are much more gratifying. We close with a fading glimpse at Bedhead
's 10-inch single on Trance Syndicate as both band and label go gently into that good night. After leading off with the pillow-headed waltz "Lepidoptera" from the Transaction de Novo
album, the Dallas-bred Kadane brothers take the term "flip side" literally by turning the musical notation for "Lepidoptera" upside down. Bass clefs become treble clefs and vice-versa on "Leper." Somehow, this chance inversion makes perfect musical sense. The song slowly gels into an endless loop of the perfectly restrained guitar interplay Bedhead built its portfolio on. Not bad for short-timers. -- Greg Beets
Framed! Records, PO Box 49961, Austin TX 78765; Twist Like This Records, PO Box 540995, Houston TX 77254; Hotwheels Jr!, PO Box 1331, Austin TX 78767; Trance Syndicate Records, PO Box 49771, Austin TX 78765.
"7 & 7 Is" reviews all vinyl singles and 10-inch records. Send to: "7 & 7 Is," c/o The Austin Chronicle, PO Box 49066, Austin TX 78765.