By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"I thought rock and roll was gonna save my soul/But now I know it's got limitations," sings Gibson (now Gordo "Buzz" Gibson) on the unbearably catchy "Something for Joey" off the band's stellar 1997 debut, Golden Energy (released on Last Beat). And it's not that the tomorrowpeople isn't a good rock and roll band, but it's something better, something more--almost techno in places ("Queen of Earthly Delights" succeeds in small scale where U2 fails in epic proportions, blending dance-floor with anthemic pop), a little bit proggy ("Psyched by the 4D Witch," which recalls Yes without saying no), kind of hypnotic and ambient (the gorgeous "Youth in Orbit" never transcends a whisper). It's certainly grounded in pop-rock--"We're almost a prescription for a post-grunge hangover," Norris once explained--but it aims much higher and hits every single time. Call this adults in orbit: Only in Dallas would a band of veterans be nominated in the New Band category--twice in two years. But more than anything, it's the sound of grownups making rock and roll that says more with a hint than it ever did with a holler.
Nominated for: New Act, Male Vocalist (Bruce Dickinson), Local Musician of the Year (Dickinson), Folk/Acoustic
Calling Bruce "Broose" Dickinson a "new act" is like referring to Rhett Miller as a whippersnapper (or, for that matter, like saying Darlington is a new band). Dickinson has been around longer than, say, Ben Kweller has been toilet-trained, having fronted pop poppins and released even a couple of solo records before releasing TooMuch Is Not Enough last year, his "first" TOOMuchTV album. (There was a cassette even before that.) He's been around so long, he's even managed to convince me that his pretensions are real enough and sincere enough--hey, I may despise pop poppins, but I'm not going to begrudge any man his desire to actually write, much less sing, that crap. And I mean that in a nice way.
Besides, I much prefer Dickinson's albums away from pop poppins, especially 1995's Exploring a Diverse Universe and TooMuch Is Not Enough, not to mention his frequent acoustic collaborations with Meredith Miller (the two only recently recorded a live album of "sappy love songs"). By himself or with a rotating cast of musicians (including former Fever in the Funkhouse guitarist Brad McLemore and ex-True Believer Jon Dee Graham), Dickinson's art-pop aspirations seem somehow warmer, more honest, more deeply felt. Where once Dickinson drowned himself in pretty words strung together for effect rather than meaning, he's now grounded more in reality, in emotion. He's still a blind romantic ("Would You Love Me," "The Moment of Love," "Curious About You [Would You Love Me II]"), but not so whimpering anymore; and the heavy keyboards-and-loops music, evocative and ethereal but with a sharp point, backs him up without letting him down. He's no rookie at all; indeed, Dickinson's a cagey veteran at this point, hitting the ball a little farther with every at bat.
Nominated for: Industrial/Dance
It seems like only yesterday no one was listening to ADanceRegina!, a band fronted by Ming the Merciless look-alike Jonnee "Not My Real Name" Flash; frankly, listening to the band's 1995 classic Beat Ballet, I'm still wondering whether the release date was wrong--c'mon, it was 1985, right?--or whether the quartet was really ASKA in dance-floor drag, so hopelessly outdated, they were one step away from being progressive. The more things change, the more they sound exactly like the Starck Club. Damn, where did I put my vial of coke?
But fret not: One half of ADanceRegina! lives on in Triprocket, a band not so bad if you've never heard of Garbage. Bobby R. (keyboards) and Matt Tinoga (drums) have hooked up with vocalist-keyboardist Kaila Brasell and guitarist Colton Weatherston to form this crafty discotheque concoction that's less about half-baked synth and more about half-assed soul: Brasell ain't no Shirley Manson, but she'll do on a Thursday night. Triprocket's eponymous debut--released last year, though not so's you'd notice--is one of those records that sneaks up on you; perhaps it's the lowered expectations created by the cheap packaging and the ADanceRegina! cover tune (oh, the memories!), but it's innocuously likable in a catchy sort of way, dance music made for pop radio with a shelf life of 37 seconds. I mean, deep down, you know this group of Shirley-Come-Latelys ain't no damned good, but that doesn't mean you can't like them. There's nothing criminal about having guilty pleasures, especially if you don't let them sleep over.
Nominated for: Alternative Rock/Pop, Single Release ("People to the Air"), Album Release (UFOFU, The Medicine Label)
If the band hadn't gone and broken up late last year, UFOFU would have made for a great sitcom. Think, people: you got a gay ex-junkie former hustler on vocals and guitar; you got an ex-Navy man and classically trained pianist on bass; and you got his wide-eyed kid brother banging away on drums. Throw in a few wacky neighbors, and you're there. The pitch: Ratso Rizzo, Corporal Klinger, and Brandon Walsh form a rock band. Much hilarity ensues.