By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Bag of Fear
Bag--unabashed fans of acid rock working in conjunction with mainstays of the local psychedelic garage-band scene like Burnin' Rain's Mike Pemberton--has come up with a late-'60s template that's been scanned, morphed, and manipulated into the '90s. Shimmering roller-rink keyboards, portentous vocals delivering lyrics that seem to float several levels above literal meaning, and guitar parts that curl and burn like phosphorescent glowworms mark this release, the logical follow-up to Bag's previous LP, the obscure Rockadelic-released Midnight Juice. Half meditation by the edge of a brilliantly lit alien sea, half Eraserhead mood music, Fear can rock with a rat's-nest snarl ("My Dark Star," a screamfest Roky would be proud to claim), slide along like a codeine-induced dream ("Pretend"), or merely puzzle ("Graham the Slut Pipe," which sounds like Robyn Hitchcock channeling Syd Barrett).
It's interesting to muse upon the ways in which certain forms of rock and jazz are both reaching in the same direction, toward the exploration of found sounds and noise as music. Listen to Fear, then a work like David Torn's What Means Solid, Traveler? and count the times one reminds you of the other. If you celebrated when Easter Everywhere was reissued on CD, put on your party hat and get into a brand-new Bag.
It might be trite to say that an album will grow on you, but in the case of Fingered it bears repeating. Finger writes the kind of catchy pop songs that don't really get their hooks in you right away. That doesn't exactly bode well for the band since most of the others in the genre (Tablet, Spot, etc.) are virtually indistinguishable.
What sets the band apart is singer Steve Stewart's (almost) theatrical baritone, which sounds like it belongs on the stage of the Music Hall at Fair Park rather than in Deep Ellum. It's not at all surprising that Stewart was performing in The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat before joining the band. His voice is startling--almost distracting--at first, but after a few songs becomes a welcome addition to the sound.
Musically, the band sounds like Toad the Wet Sprocket decided to show a little backbone, started listening to the Toadies and dug up a few effects pedals. In fact, on "God," Stewart effectively mimics Toadies frontman Todd Lewis' manic caterwaul. The band maintains a strong pop-psychedelic rock vibe throughout, but what'll make or break the album is the listener's reaction to Stewart's voice: You'll either love it or hate it. A solid first showing.