By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The Big Train
The boys in Big Train sent out a resume with the CD, complete with a list of influences that are no doubt meant to fill in the huge blanks left by the music: Frank Zappa, Jesus Lizard, Led Zeppelin, Jane's Addiction, Joni Mitchell, Fugazi, Sly Stone, Van Halen, and Robert Johnson to name but a fraction--most likely anyone they ever heard of but didn't learn from, all the right and wrong names with which to cover the bases and their asses. But it wouldn't matter if they put George Gershwin and Jesus Christ on the list, they still sound like Tripping Daisy (from lead "vocals" to tuneless tunes) and second-rate metal (they even quote Loverboy) on this end, and that's with the benefit of the doubt that it was supposed to end up like this.
The intro guitar to "Spacewalk I&II" is gripping enough (there's your Jesus Lizard, but it might be Caulk), but from then on the whole thing is grating hard-rock that finds legitimacy in a so-called "underground" that's just pissed off it can't be above ground. And it's wrong-headed and offensive, too: "Eisenhaur" is apparently supposed to be some sort of rant about hypocrisy, or so one fathoms from the ineloquent lyrics, but it just comes off as a excuse for lead singer Quanah (yes, just "Quanah") to use various racial, sexual, and religious slurs without catching heat or having to make a real point (these guys couldn't find a point if they sat on a box of nails). And only metal bands want to know if you "wanna lick my balls."
From a Distance
Moulin D'Or Recordings
From the label that brought us the new-age piano and hair stylings of Danny Wright (who's oh-so-wrong) and the new Windborne (in which the Dallas Brass loses a bet and goes Kenny G), here's yet another high concept that panders to the commercial low-brow. But instead of monks singing to a disco beat (see: Enigma), here's the Texas Boys Choir (recording under the name Fonologee) backed by programmed drums and synth piano and soprano sax and ambient weather sounds and all manner of unnecessary nonsense. And it's ill-conceived from the get-go, the foolish ideas of vulgarians and vultures.
These kids are powerful all by themselves, their combined voices subtle and beautiful and somehow never overwrought even when you know it should be. But by layering the inhuman sounds of machines on top of the very human sounds of pure voices, "creative concept" coordinator Julie Tew has smothered the very thing that makes any part of this unholy project appealing; she has managed to sell out the Texas Boys Choir, no small feat, and nothing she or anyone associated with this should be proud of.
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