the Happen-Ins, Damage Pants, Cause for Applause, and Gospel Truth
Back in wax
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., March 5, 2010
To borrow a line from Jack White's Raconteurs, the Happen-Ins are consolers of the lonely. The local quartet's self-titled debut, currently making the rounds on vinyl, shackles the roots flair of singer/guitarist Sean Faires' short-lived Dedringers (the pedal-steel-accented "You've Been Bad" and "Don't Look Back") with the unabashed, Rolling Stones swagger of guitarist Ricky Ray Jackson's Lomita ("Do It," "Cross Your Heart"). The resulting maximum fuzz R&B unbuttons easier than pearl snaps in the steel glow of "Don't Look Back," slow Deep City soul of "Never Said," and slide-guitar-spurred dustup "Die." Still rough and needing more Keith Richards to balance out this Beggars Banquet, the Happen-Ins are off to a promising start. Austin's Damage Pants, likewise, bulldozes through its eponymous wax LP, released by Bombay Cove, complete with a free MP3 download. The two-man wrecking crew mines the middle rubble between Kyuss' stoner blues and the rhythmic gyration of Death From Above 1979, except without the sleazy sexiness inherent in both. Drummer/vocalist Robert Davis' post-hardcore thrashing locks in with Kyle Smith's sledgehammer grooves like a cage match. The latter opens on guitar ("Empty or Not," the doom-laden "We Were Left") but does more damage on bass, especially on "The Hands of Paolo Rocco" and "Ballad," which is anything but. The inaugural, vinyl-only pressing from Austin's Bicentennial Baby Records pairs locals Cause for Applause with Gospel Truth for what sounds like a double bill at late music venue the Blue Flamingo – drunken, 1990s noise-rock with a confrontational streak. Cause for Applause features a former member of '68 Comeback and Kid Congo Powers & the Pink Monkey Birds, which, along with the staggered pub-blues of Beasts of Bourbon, is solid framework for these six skuzzy tunes. Bassist David Lloyd Wofford contorts his vocals with Hank Williams' yelp and David Yow's screech, bemoaning in "More, More More": "I'd like to get up. Which way is up?" On the flip side, Gospel Truth testifies to the Touch & Go legacy (Mule, the Jesus Lizard, Laughing Hyenas), smearing organ and jarring saxophone to its intense, disorienting rockabilly berserk. Sounds like a hell-bent tent revival.