By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
In these pages last year, Robert Wilonsky wrote, "I can't remember a year when so many local bands released so many albums that I'll play well into next year and beyond." And, at the time, I agreed with him wholeheartedly. Looking at the 20 albums we had singled out, it seemed like the best year in local music in a long time, the good outweighing the bad like a sumo wrestler and an infant. Almost every record on that list looked as if it would stand the test of time. At the very least, they appeared as though they'd make it past January.
Apparently, however, last year's notable releases were so good that we didn't want to go back and listen to them, in case they overwhelmed us with their goodness. The last time I listened to any of the discs on last year's local best-of -- save for Legendary Crystal Chandelier's Love or the Decimal Equivalent, which finds its way back into rotation every few weeks -- was when Robert and I were compiling the list. Nothing against The Calways, Cowboys and Indians, Kevin Deal, The Lucky Pierres, Spyche, Transona Five, or any of the others. Fact is, as brilliantly twisted as The Dooms U.K.'s sophomore album, Art Rock Explosion!, seemed at the time, I haven't been compelled to pop that disc into my CD player anytime recently, and the same goes for the rest of the bunch. Maybe we were wrong.
Or maybe there were just too many good locally produced albums released this year for last year's honor graduates to contend with. In fact, there were so many fine releases issued in the past 12 months, I'm tempted to repeat last year's boast, especially since -- for the most part -- it's a new crop of bands that appears here. Budapest One, Captain Audio, N'Dambi, Little Grizzly, Chomsky, Pleasant Grove, The Baptist Generals, Eleven Hundred Springs, and The Deathray Davies all made their marks with their debut discs, which is, if nothing else, the promise of a better tomorrow. It's too soon to tell whether the 20 albums we've chosen (well, 21, since Centro-matic hits the chart with two discs) are equipped to survive the new year, but here's hoping. Assuming there is a new year.
And guess what? Contrary to popular opinion, I do hope that at least a few of these discs survive long into next year and the years to come. Nothing would please me more than if one or all of these albums lives on as long after its initial release as the Toadies' Rubberneck, or holds up to as many repeated listenings as Funland's The Funland Band or Bedhead's WhatFunLifeWas or The Full-Custom Gospel Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat. Maybe in five years, Chomsky's A Few Possible Selections for the Soundtrack of Your Life will still make its way into our CD player for no reason in particular. Or Pleasant Grove's debut will continue to sound like the masterpiece it does today. I can't say I'm scared by that prospect.
Too often, we're asked to play the unwieldy part of cheerleader, blind and deaf homers who think that everything homemade is great! Those who criticize our alleged lack of support fail to realize that unconditional love is the cheapest kind of all, fit for mothers and little else. (Among the many things we've been called, mother is not one of them, unless it's being paired with "fucker.") If, say, we should give Pimpadelic's Southern Devils a generous review simply because they are local and popular, then what happens to the albums that are actually worthwhile? Taking the approach that every local band deserves not only our attention but our praise wouldn't just devalue legitimate acclaim; it would decimate it.
Besides, it's only an opinion, delivered with no malice aforethought. (Well, not much anyway.) As Necro Tonz singer Colleen Bradford wrote in an e-mail blasting us for what she deemed gratuitous cheap shots against her band and the "scene" as a whole, "Music is art. Art is subjective." Somehow, Bradford hit upon the point even while she spent the rest of her missive doing her best to avoid it, including "don't shit where you eat" among her many admonitions. We may not like every record that comes out around here, but at least we're honest about it. And if you're a musician who desperately needs validation from us, then you're probably in the wrong business.
That said, obviously local music is destined to be graded on a curve, but that curve should be flat; after all, every group's a local band somewhere. If bands from the Dallas-Denton-Fort Worth area want to succeed anywhere else but here, then they have to be judged alongside everyone else. As Ric Flair says, "To be the man, you have to beat the man." Of course, Flair is also in his 50s and continues to run around in little more than his underwear as an employee of World Championship Wrestling. So maybe everything he says shouldn't be taken as gospel. The point is, if you think only in terms of local success, that's all you'll ever have.