By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
"I think Bubba and I are deeply, profoundly, utterly saddened by the end of Trance," Matt Kadane says. "I guess what makes me sad is it's the end of an era. When I think about good music that has come from Texas in the '90s, I think of Trance. And Lord knows all of it hasn't been good, but what good has come out of Texas in indie-rock has come out on Trance."
... and the Horse they rode in on
Fort Worth's own T-Bone Burnett once insisted that Jack O'Neill was going to prove to be a great singer-songwriter the day O'Neill decided to leave Jackopierce. "Like PJ Harvey," Burnett said, overstating his case to make his point. "Really." At the time, it was easy to mistake his zeal for the paycheck A&M Records was giving him to produce the band's 1994 A&M debut Bringing on the Weather; surely, it was the money talking.
But never doubt a man who plays with Elvis Costello and lays with Sam Phillips--he ain't no dummy. The new American Horse six-song EP, available now in your finer record shoppes, proves that O'Neill was indeed blinded by the glow of cheap coin that surrounded Pierce, whose idea of mixing art and commerce was selling Jackopierce hacky-sacks and koozies on the band's Web site. American Horse--which also features Jackopierce escapees Clay Pendergrass (bass) and Earl Darling (drums) and ex-Fever in the Funkhouse lead guitarist Chris Claridy--ain't exactly the stuff of absolute greatness (then again, nothing is these days), but finally, O'Neill gets to prove there's more to him than songs about girls with mahogany hair and summer sunsets and all that other horseshit that passes for sensitive genius on Fraternity Row.
The disc begins with promise that doesn't double-cross until the closer, a little Casio folk-soul number called "Moment Betrayed" that dares begin with the lines: "You and I in a gilded cage / Strange brotherhood, I never knew I was his brother." The words are wimpier than the music, which isn't saying a whole lot--no, wait, it is. But the rest of the record, all five songs of it, hints at O'Neill's born-again taste for rock and roll; it's gritty, ugly, low-down, hoarse, and coarse, and probably the worst thing you can say about it is that it sounds not a little unlike Pearl Jam's more dour, art-rock moments--O'Neill's rasping mumble would make Eddie-now-Ed proud (or would that be Michael Hutchence?). The opener, "Steering Wheel," is the highlight, maybe because it's a driving song that doesn't go anywhere; it's more like an idling car in a closed garage, and the fumes are intoxicating.
Hate to say a band of vets has potential--six songs, one a half-done acoustic demo, don't give a whole lot to go on. But O'Neill and Claridy (at long last, in a band that utilizes his estimable talents) and the rest of the boys prove you're not defined by your past, as long as you run the hell away from it as fast as you can.
For years, the crowds have been clamoring for their take-home copies of such classics as "Heather Has Two Mommies" and "Golden Shower" and "Come Play With My Kitty," but they've left the arena in frustration. John Freeman is a tease, the audience mutters in despair, wondering why he and his Dooms U.K. bandmates would taunt them with live renditions of songs they could never own. Well, fret no more, poodle-hairs and punks and lovers of fancy metal everywhere: At the beginning of August, the Dooms will release its second album in four long years, Art-Rock Explosion, and it will indeed consist of those crowd favorites and scoopfuls of other unknown rave-faves-to-be.
"At least half the songs are songs we don't play live," Freeman says of the forthcoming disc, which will be a co-release on Freeman's Ballalicious label and Hot Link Records, the Denton label run by Wally Campbell of Cornhole. "I always think a band's album should be a different experience than they are live, so it has a different feel. There's more instrumental stuff on the new record: The first song is an eight-and-a-half-minute instrumental with a kinda prog-rock feel."
The reason there has been so much time between the Dooms' Greasy Listening (released on Direct Hit) and Art-Rock Explosion is a matter of simple economics: The band--which included, this go-'round, Matt Pence on drums, Mark Headman on bass some of the time, and Jon "Corn Mo" Cunningham on Tommy Shaw keybs all of the time--recorded the album all by its lonesome and went into the studio when it had some spare scratch. Freeman also cut his own Dutch Treats/William Pollard (also of Cornhole) split seven-inch single during that time, which will be released next month as well. The vinyl will feature Freeman covering Cornhole's "Naked Child" and Pollard remaking Freeman's immortal "Crack Whore"; also featured is Freeman's rendition of "I Was Born to Make Dwarf Porn," a love song.
"When the Dooms CD comes out, we're going to do unusual CD release shows," promises the keeper of all things heavy-mental. "We're going to have a video-showing and concert combined. We want it to be arty and unusual, because we're tired of regular rock." Who isn't?