The Austin Chronicle

SXSW Live Shots

Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, March 19, 2004, Music

The Baptist Generals

Blender Bar @ the Ritz, Friday, March 19 What does it mean when you see an audience member at a showcase reading a book, but also singing along to the lyrics? It just might mean that the songs of the Baptist Generals are actually doing their work. Chris Flemmons writes songs about interpersonal desolation, detachment, and emotional ruin. Which is probably why, despite the fact that the Denton quartet turned in a solid performance during their Sub Pop showcase, it was hard to latch on emotionally. The music was exceptional as always, which a spectator deemed "Calexico on a bad acid trip"; the lyrics, when paired with the guitarron, coalesce into a Southwestern fever dream populated with brokenhearted drunks who can't live without "Alcohol." Flemmons delivered his songs of hope-tinged despair with his eerily wistful near-falsetto. This is a man on the razor's edge of oblivion, reflected in Flemmons' 1,000-yard stare. The group relied mostly on older material from their previous LPs (Dog and No Silver/No Gold), with "Feds on the Highway" providing the set's most beautiful, crystalline moment. Easily the best song on No Silver, "Feds" prophesies a change on the wind: "Just this morning, I saw a scorpion take a jaybird." As the last note of this song dwindled over the PA, the crowd seemed to pause a bit before applauding. This lo-fi angst has the effect of sending a listener into his or her own cocoon; sometimes it's hard to resurface. Flemmons looked a bit under the weather, sparking concerned discussion about his health. "A is for Austin, A is for allergies," he apologized, then busted into the set closer about "your fucked-up life," a cheery end to a disarmingly isolating set that made one feel like maybe we're just a bunch of lonely little islands occasionally bumping into one another.

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