Steady breakin'

Jeff K and Kelly Reverb put the needle on the record and dance, dance, dance

The success of the Chemicals and their ilk "may have not achieved what we hoped it would," says Jeff K, "but the impact is undeniable when you can hear it in the music of Madonna and U2. Let's take two summers ago, when Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers were supposed to be the saviors of rock and roll. This was the new subculture radio programmers were looking to. I moved to L.A. because I thought I would ride this wave to California. But once you get through the Prodigy and Chemical Brothers and Crystal Method, there's not enough rock stars for people to latch on to. There was not enough to influence radio programmers as a whole to change their philosophy.

"They embraced it to make them look hip and cutting-edge, but they discarded it for swing and the new Marilyn Manson album...But it all boils down to what the music gives you as a feeling. Will electronic music change the world? Some of it. But most of it's for entertaining. You either like it or you don't. I would like Dallas to be regarded as a premier electronic subculture, and that's why I moved back and started the label. I am not trying to be a savior. I'm just doing what I can within my own reach."

Monkey see, monkey do
So when's the Four Reasons Unknown reunion? In this town, you're in a new band consisting of members of beloved old bands, you're in an old band that keeps getting back together every few years for "reunion" shows, or you were in a band that just broke up, like, last week. (And, no doubt, you will be playing country music soon enough.) Pretty soon, local bands will begin instituting free-agency restrictions, with ex-New Bohemians guitarist Kenny Withrow acting as the Curt Flood of Dallas rock--for a guy who moved to Seattle, he's in more bands than electric guitars.

Withrow is now a full-time member in the reformed Cosmic Chimp, which broke up a lifetime ago (OK, in 1993), got back together to play Barleypalooza earlier this summer, and has decided to keep on loving you. The band busted up in June 1993, after bassist-lead singer Scott Johnson moved to Seattle, where he and Withrow played together in The Slip with Edie Brickell. But both have since moved back to Dallas and hooked up with ex-Chimp drummer Carl Hamm and add-on second guitarist Carter Albrecht; both Hamm and Albrecht had been in the Dead Thing for several years, but quit in 1996 to play in Minglewood.

"We're playing 75 percent new material," Hamm says, "and bringing back some of the better songs from the old days. While it's a new group, I think that we still have that reckless abandon we were known for in the old days." The band is scheduled to begin recording demos at Withrow's Deep Ellum studio this month (with David Castell producing--fancy!), and will perform October 5 at Club Dada. Which is only appropriate, Hamm explains, as the Chimp had a standing Monday-night residency at Dada when the band broke up in 1993.

Back and ... better than ever?
The voice on the other end of the line introduces himself this way: "Hi, it's your favorite whipping boy." Could it be...? Why, yes, it's Cary Pierce, former co-frontman for the now-defunct (yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus) Jackopierce. Actually, picking on Pierce isn't such a fun pastime anymore, at least not while the members of Pimpadelic and Deep Blue Something draw breath. (Either that, or I've just run out of jokes.) By comparison, Pierce is actually rather harmless, just another earnest, ambitious pop-folkie out there strumming his guitar and singing his little songs and proving he's still the most sensitive boy in all the land. To wit: On the new Aware 6 disc, a collection of songs by bands that want to sound like either England Dan or Steely Dan, Pierce debuts his first solo track without longtime partner Jack O'Neill, and it's one Charmin-soft ditty. Titled "Tower," it's a strumalong piece of burning, yearning (and gut-churning) pop about a guy so in-touch with his emotions, he's "ready to love, ready to breathe...ready to give more than I receive." Quick, somebody gimme a hankie.

But what the hell do I know? Jackopierce did pretty well for themselves--selling thousands of records on their own label, releasing two discs on A&M, and conning a whole bunch of pretty college girls to buy into their shtick. And Pierce--who is currently writing lyrics with Vanilla Ice's former choreographer, and that is not a joke--always took the barbs pretty well, probably because he made some nice coin, toured the country, got on TV (played Rosie O'Donnell even, which must have made him a smash in trailer parks throughout the land), and grew his hair nice and purdy. So when he says that he's proud of the new record, that the breakup of Jackopierce was "the best thing that's ever happened to me," and that he has turned down several "big-money" offers to play solo shows till now, well, good for him. Seriously. Clearly, people are willing to pay for Pierce's product. Probably the same people who voted in last week's Observer best-of issue for McDonald's as the best burger in town. But still.

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