2001 Dallas Observer Music Awards

Narrow margins remind us that everyone's a winner

Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Todayis that Breakthrough Record every band dreams of, only to have it remain a distant, unattainable fantasy; it's Slobberbone's Pleased to Meet Me, Exile on Main Street, Anodyne. It opens with a "Meltdown," hangs "Trust Jesus" banners from overpasses from here to San Diego, paints "I Love You" in bright colors on water towers and coats the whole mess in the "easy sheen of alcohol"; it's the boozer who winds up in the drunk tank wailing about salvation; it's the songwriter venting his frustration at a music industry that has no room at the table for the guys with something to say ("You serve them Bizkits and Korn with a spoon"); it's the loser plotting his revenge on all them who done him wrong; it's the loner begging for one more companion, one more shot at redemption. It's a mess. It's a masterpiece. --R.W.

The Toadies
Winner for: Single Release (2000)

After all of the will-they-or-won't-they? debates, all of the politics, the label mergers and new managers and abandoned albums, all of the shit they've been through--and there isn't another word for it--this is what it comes down to for The Toadies. Music--plain, simple. That's it, nothing else. Just a dozen good-to-great songs played by a great-to-really-great band. Imagine that. The rest of it is a cancelled soap opera, pulp fiction for VH1 addicts. It is irrelevant. It is finished.

At this point, it doesn't matter that "Heel"--the song that wins here for Single Release--is not technically, not officially, the first single released off The Toadies' finally-out Hell Below/Stars Above. Or that it's not even really a single; The Toadies said as much when it first began to trickle out, to fans' stereos, to radio playlists. Why should it matter? Exactly, it shouldn't. (The first, official single from the disc is the Rubberneck-reminiscent "Push the Hand," if you're wondering. And even if you're not.) Appearing on an Interscope Records sampler last summer, "Heel," if nothing else, was the first bite of a big meal that spent a long time in the oven. (OK, metaphor, you can relax now; we're done stretching you.)

Official single or no, "Heel" was and is a good enough starting point, a bridge from one still-played album to the next long-awaited one, a reintroduction, a remember-us? note from a band that never really went away, but sure, didn't go anywhere for a while either. A sign that a new record no longer existed merely on paper, in a rehearsal studio, on desperately typed posts on Internet message boards, in dreams. It was real, and what's more, Interscope was really going to release it. And, a few twists and turns aside, they did just that a few weeks ago.

Fact is, every song on Hell Below/Stars Above is a single, is radio-ready, and not in a bad way. Even the epic, kings-of-Queen title track would work, giving adventurous program directors two songs for the price of one. (There are those, however, who think The Toadies should have completed the homage to all-things-Mercury and combined "Hell Below/Stars Above" with the disc-closing "Dollskin.") You could pick the Funland-lives "Jigsaw Girl" or HB/SA's power ballad (emphasis on both words, please) "Pressed Against the Sky." "Sweetness," "Little Sin," "Motivational," "You'll Come Down"--anything would work, does work. For our part, we think they should have begun at the beginning, with the appropriately titled, album-opening "Plane Crash," which hits the ground with Marshall stacks still ablaze.

More than likely, they'll be burning long into next year. Might as well start engraving the trophies now. --Z.C.

Kim Pendleton (Vibrolux)
Winner for: Female Vocalist

It seems like Vibrolux has been Dallas' biggest soon-to-be success story in the making ever since there was a different Bush in the White House. It hasn't been quite that long, but the band's bumpy journey from Dallas to Los Angeles and back, wading waist-deep through a major-label A&R alphabet soup--at some point in the past five years, the band has been mentioned in the same sentence as Sony, Warner Bros., A&M, Elektra, Virgin, RCA and Polydor in this very paper--has been Dallas' local music, made-for-TV-movie-of-the week sob story.

Many just-as-deserving bands before Vibrolux, however, have watched their chances slip through their palm-up extended fingers, and many more will be stung by the same hot-and-cold indecisive impulses that power the industry in the years to come. But when Last Beat Records released Vibrolux's self-titled debut last year, the band's lone album in its long, seemingly thwarted career, you remember why people feel like Vibrolux has been dealt a fate worse than Vice President Dick Cheney's cardiologist. And it has all to do with Kim Pendleton.

Pendleton's got the sort of persona that appears tailor made for stardom, and when Vibrolux performs live she exudes a captivating confidence. Yet despite her obvious, pleasing merits, even the most obnoxious guy in the crowd is going to leave remembering only one thing: that voice. She can swing low, sweetly, before climbing chariot-like into high notes, as she does in the whisper-to-a-scream dream of "Love Letters." She can vamp like a sultry sophisticate ("Beginning") and then slum with a coarse growl ("Can't Feel"). And when she kicks off with rainy-day downers, as when she breathes "Sometimes you feel so low" on "Hammerhead" or "Don't leave me standing at the door" on "Good Night Sleep," you know this sunshine girl's not going to let you linger there too long. Pendleton's voice lends Vibrolux's guitar pop the sort of moody dexterity that elevates its potentially listless moments to a more alluring level.

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