Insects of the Underground, Ron Flynt, and Dexter Freebish
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Dec. 24, 2010
For his second LP, local songwriter Aaron Calhoun subsumes his identity into Insects of the Underground. The moniker and comic-book cover art suggest sci-fi punk, but Mind Matter takes its cues from the mellow art-rock travelogues of Al Stewart and Alan Parsons. Calhoun's songs fixate on themes of isolation and alienation, but his expressive voice, along with tasteful degrees of groove and ornamentation from the band, keep the album from becoming a dystopian plod. 20/20 principal and Austinite Ron Flynt helped develop the archetype for power pop in the late 1970s. 12 Strings and Tambourines (Oglio) plays like a road map of Flynt's past and present musical sensibilities with nine covers and a couple of stray originals. Touchstones from Ricky Nelson to Big Star are revived with jukeboxlike precision. Flynt's renditions are more reverent than revelatory, but even a well-worn oldie like "Hello Mary Lou" gains new spark alongside chestnuts like Nick Lowe's "I Knew the Bride (When She Used To Rock 'n' Roll)." In contrast to Flynt's highly personal retrospective, Dexter Freebish's first all-new CD since 2004's Tripped Into Divine emanates futuristic universality. For Shine On, the quartet's quest for perfect pop hooks is swathed in electronic slickery coupled with one-size-fits-all lyrical themes. It's easy to imagine a swatch of "Save the Last Dance" or "Do You Want To" catching your ear in a TV commercial, but difficult to discern the humanity behind the mechanics.