By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Nominated for: Rock
You want to root for Doosu just for the off-handed manner in which they thank "the valve donor" and "everyone on the 4th floor at Presbyterian Hospital" in the liner notes on last year's Quick Bionic Arms EP. Other bands in Doosu's situation might have used singer-guitarist Casey Hess' medical problems for sympathy or as an escape clause. To their credit, the members of the band just want to get on with their lives, thankful for the fact that they can. All they want to do is rock.
Quick Bionic Arms shows that the band is getting better at doing just that. With labelmates like Caulk and Slow Roosevelt, Doosu could previously be considered the most melodic of the One Ton bands (not counting recent signee Buck Jones) almost by default, and the six-cut EP confirms that suspicion. The songs are tighter and more focused, the structures trimmed down from 1995's ambling ...so called the cupboard's bare. The band's writing, especially Hess', is much more pop-based than before. On songs like "Arrow," Hess and the band--bassist Chad Deatley, drummer Todd Harwell, and singer-guitarist Eric Shutt--sound like early Jane's Addiction, Hess' lofty vocals softening the blow of the hard-driving riffs and clobbering rhythms.
Doosu is still Doosu, so "trimmed-down" only means that all the songs are less than six minutes long, and sometimes--usually when Shutt is singing--the band strays into the territory of bad Metallica (see Load and Reload). Doosu may be improving by leaps and bounds, but it's not there yet.
Big Al Dupree
Nominated for: Jazz
Friday and Saturday nights at Lakewood's wildly popular Balcony Club still belong to 75-year-old singer-instrumentalist Big Al Dupree--at least, on the marquee. Trouble is, many weekend patrons give their conversations top billing over Big Al's consummate musicianship. If you want to actually hear Dupree's shimmering, benevolent, throaty jaunt through a variety of jazz's poppier standards dressed up in his trademark "jump blues" style, we suggest two strategies: Get an early table, plant yourself there defiantly all night, and periodically tell your nattering neighbors to shut the fuck up while Dupree delivers his set.
Barring that, visit him on his less congested, more relaxed Tuesday-night gig, or grab a listen during one of his occasional out-of-club appearances, such as the 1997 First Presbyterian's jazz-gospel show, where he put saxophone to lips and blew the heart into Ellington's "Heaven" before an 18-piece band and a 30-voice choir. Or pick up his 1995 Swings the Blues disc, last year's Blues Across America/The Dallas Scene compilation, and 1996's Scene, Heard Volume 2 collection for huge doses and single shots of Big Al's big blues. You might just get buzzed enough to confront the roar of a Saturday night at the Balcony Club for a few more swigs.
Nominated for: Industrial/Dance
Two years ago, industrial music was poised on the verge of Next Big Thing status. Trent Reznor was a hero to the disaffected, and the industrial-lite of Gravity Kills was scurrying up the charts. Then, all of a sudden, dance music turned up its guitars (or just added them) and stole industrial music's audience. Even a casual observer of the music scene is aware of this fact, but it's pertinent when discussing 18% Grayhound because, apparently, nobody told them that even Reznor doesn't bother with industrial music anymore.
It wouldn't really matter, if the band were onto something original. Unfortunately, 18 percent of the band's music sounds like Nine Inch Nails, and the other 82 percent sounds like Gravity Kills. Even if that ratio were reversed, 18% Grayhound would still come off as scheming careerists whose calendar stopped in 1995. The small portion of the band's demo tape that recalls NIN sounds as if it were actually sampled off of Pretty Hate Machine, which seems like a pretty lazy way to make music. The real forefather to 18% Grayhound's sound is the industrial pop of Gravity Kills, itself a Muzak version of Trent Reznor's vision. A copy of a copy is only good if you can't remember what the original sounded like.
Nominated for: Cover Band
I was pressed into writing a blurb for steadily employed Dallas cover band Emerald City because I listened to them perform a few songs at a holiday bash. From that very brief exposure, let me recommend these proficient musicians for any office party, wedding reception, bar mitzvah, or suburban park concert where: a) more conversation than music appreciation will take place, and b) there's a lot of alcohol being served. And may I make a suggestion to Emerald City? Please, please don't play scintillating Marvin Gaye tunes like "Sexual Healing." If I must experience a verisimilitude of Gaye's genius, the preferred option would be some dyke drag king a la Elvis Herselvis lipsynching Gaye's real voice. Just a suggestion.
Nominated for: Industrial/Dance
Their self-penned bio insists they aren't industrial, though they understand why they get pigeonholed (like, by whom?) as such: "because the style of music the band creates is partially comprised of mechanical and electronic beats and sounds." But, they go on, the band is about more than that: They "have a much broader commercial appeal than the term industrial may imply." So there you have it: If industrial at its best offers anonymous rage bellowed over a metallic barrage, then these boys dish out industrial at its most top-of-the-pops mediocre. They exist solely to be stars--from bio: "Jason Jones has been striving for musical stardom since he was 17"--and make music not because they must, but solely because they desire easy fame. Which is a fine enough reason, I guess; guys who look like they do need something to help them get laid. But the need to be famous offers piss-poor inspiration when it comes time to write songs, and these boys are angry solely because they aren't Gravity Kills or Stabbing Westward or Tool. Nothing worse than cranky white guys who want what they will never have.