By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Thomas' longtime bandmates--Scott Minyard on guitar, Mark Sodders on bass, and Aaron Lyons on drums--provide the menacing, airtight vehicle for Thomas' kamikaze mission. Slow Roosevelt ("Slow-Ro," to all you voters) not only makes its camp at the harder-is-better One Ton label; it's practically the label mascot. And once you've seen the band live, seen Thomas arson his way through the set with the ire of an A/V nerd on a psychotic binge, you'll do well to get outta the way and let him burn, baby, burn.
Gabrielle Douglas (Buck Jones)
Winner for: Female Vocalist
So Buck Jones' Gabrielle Douglas--Gabby, to those in the know--is the towering new siren in Dallas. You'll get no argument here. Blithe and lithe behind a bass that almost obscures her, she's a pretty, seductive rock-pop princess who makes pretty, seductive rock pop. She's hardly the calculated ingenue, but more a natural shining star. Gabby is only half the vocal ingredient of Buck Jones: Mr. Gabrielle Douglas, a.k.a. Burette, is the other. The two equally share the lead on songs as though that were written into their marriage vows, so you can't talk about Gabrielle's wiles without balancing against her the rest of the band's wares. Swirling, ethereal, and moody one moment, hubby-on-a-mission-to-rock the next, Buck Jones--which also features Cody Lee on drums and Tommy Meador on guitar--is a dichotomy in slow bloom. Has been since the beginning.
Buck Jones is a band everyone near and dear to the local music biz--its fellow artists, scenesters, even the media--has loved and predicted grand things for as far back as 1996, when its self-done debut Shoegazer got a brief salute in Billboard. (The Observer has been writing about the band since 1994, when there were two female singers.) But neither the crowds nor the label offers ever came. The 1997 follow-up for steve records, Shimmer, was heralded across the board as an outstanding local effort, but it seems in retrospect like a Polaroid of a band still tottering, unable to find the perfect equilibrium. The post-Shimmer live show grew more stable, slowly attracting slightly bigger crowds as the band honed its dizzying combination of bombastic wandering rock and down-the-middle power pop. Still, Buck Jones remained a band that many praise, but far fewer actually clamor to see.
So how do you solve a problem like Buck Jones? It's a worthwhile question, rock-and-roll truthseeking brought on by a critically praised band that appears to be a walking contradiction. Can you capture the hearts of the masses while giving them two disparate sounds at the same time? The band signed with One Ton last year, so it's Aden Holt's knot to unravel now. Buck Jones is generally considered One Ton's not-so-secret commercial weapon, a potential motherlode that counters One Ton's two tons of metal, but the act has teetered on the verge of being The Next Big Whatever before. And from the previews of the forthcoming Buck Jones album gleaned from the One Ton sampler Big & Bothered Vol. 2, the knot just gets tighter. One track, "Decide," features Burette doing his Everyman John Lennon, churning guitars washing over a stomping beat. But singing between "Imaginary Lines," Gabrielle's voice bounces upon a field of sweet, spacey pop; suddenly, everything feels so up. Both tracks are perfect paradigms of the two faces of Buck Jones; they're both first-rate, it's just that they sound as though they were recorded by two different good bands. Every band should have such problems.
Winner for: Best New Act
Lewis is the very definition of "new act." These self-proclaimed "white, middle-class" suburban-raised guys, who got together in December 1997 when they were all attending Texas A&M, have yet to release a CD at a time when doing so is as difficult as booting up a computer, and the new drummer replaced an original drummer whose last name wasn't even known by the rest of the band. (And to be honest, when the band was proclaimed the winner, the Observer music staff said in unison, "Lewis who?") Yet when the readers' votes in this category were tallied, Lewis easily won, besting second-place finisher Captain Audio by a substantial number of votes--this, despite the fact that Captain Audio consists of respected vets (Brandon Curtis of UFOFU, Josh Garza of Comet, and Regina Chellew of myriad bands) whose ambitious, enthralling debut disc ranks among the finest ever released by a Dallas band. Perhaps the readers didn't consider Captain Audio a "new" band at all; maybe it's a matter of semantics when it comes down to it. Old-timers.
Not that Lewis isn't deserving of this award, not at all. Hey, the kids have spoken, and that's all that matters. Besides, Lewis is very much a new band in the sense that it only now has begun to find its voice, only now has begun sifting through its disparate, if sometimes conspicuous, influences: R.E.M. and Tripping Daisy, pop poppins and Pearl Jam (oh, they'll learn). They're a new band, all right--novices just beginning to figure out what it takes to make a record, what it takes to turn a passion into a hobby into a career. Brett Tohlen (24, singer-guitarist), Matt Beaton (23, and ditto), and 24-year-old bassist Jeff Truly formed Lewis (so named for author C.S. Lewis) during their days spent working as DJs at the A&M radio station; 20-year-old drummer John Owen Parish joined after what's-his-name left. And from its inception, the band has "never had to play to 10 people," as Beaton asserts with no small amount of pride. "We expected it to be harder than it was," Tohlen adds. "I think we were fortunate at the beginning, because we had a lot of help."