By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Smells like Texas spirit
Gospel Tunes form the Bowels of Texas
Sutra U Records
As apathy rules the local airwaves, albums like Gospel Tunes from the Bowels of Texas are welcome, if only for stirring the stagnant mud of industry-friendly rock. Even though nothing's shocking anymore, the album reminds us that punk rock is still the voice of dissent, no matter how many Offsprings have dragged it to the mall.
Alternately called Steers, Queers...Satanic Toaster Ovens, the compilation is a relentless attack on institutions, sacred cows, or whatever happens to be in the way. Featuring the irreverent likes of Pump'n Ethyl, Bobby Soxx and the Teenage Queers, Pervis, and REO Speedealer along with the psyched-out priests Lithium Xmas, the Walking Timebombs, and a grinning Bobby Tilton on the record label, this album is a loud document of the (smelly) underbelly of Texas underground. Many of the song titles sound like tabloid headlines; proof that junk culture doesn't only sedate; it can also inspire.
Some of it is campy, some deadly poignant, and some plain silly. True, death and violence and all sorts of satanic stuff are this week's blue-light special, with bands like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson shooting up the charts. What makes this LP enjoyable is that its delinquent participants approach the material with their tongues in their dirty little cheeks. It's a grubby ode to demonic rock 'n' roll excess that doesn't take itself seriously, pokes fun at everything, and is ultimately fun for the whole dysfunctional family.
Unlike the agitators of Gospel Tunes, Iron Bong is a low-key quintet that likes to take trips to Planet Psych. The eight tracks on the humorously titled Big Hits are extended trippy jams simmering with noodly guitar solos, psychotic organ grinding, and repetitive drums. They could be soundtracks to imaginary B-movies full of spaced-out characters living unbelievable scenarios. Super heady, subtly malicious in parts, and occasionally verging on the experimental, Big Hits often falls in the cracks of self-indulgence, only to be rescued by its lack of self-promotion. It is obvious that the musicians not only threw commercial notions away, they also had a blast doing it.
What Benny Lawlace, C. Weed, Buddy Burns, Edward Holland, and Erich Anderson have concocted is a witch's brew that keeps brain cells racing to the wonderland where "Feedback Is Free" and the food of choice is "Peyote Pudding." Alternating between elevated bliss and disturbing bad-trip landscapes, Big Hits is shrouded in a hazy shade of purple.