By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Pardon us if we're speaking out of turn, but this is something we've been thinking about for a while: Why isn't there a local label with any sort of national presence? Some have the money, most have the talent. All are run by people who know what they're doing. And all are, no offense, merely local labels, selling their wares to the same few thousand folks who buy local music. A few have tapped against the glass ceiling, but usually, they never come close. Let's look at the list:
Last Beat Records: While Last Beat has at least one great record coming out soon (Baboon's Something Good is Going to Happen to You) and one other good one on the way (Eleven Hundred Springs' forthcoming EP, featuring Vibrolux singer Kim Pendleton), the cupboard is barer than before. Pinkston's on the shelf for a few months, due to singer Beth Clardy Lewis' due date; Cramer's in school; and GRYN is, well, not good. Their alliance with The Burden Brothers, however, bodes well for the future, especially since that band seems determined to spread its seed nationwide and, in Todd Lewis and Taz Bentley, it has a core group that's done it before. But Last Beat has tried (and failed) to expand its market before; remember when they put out records by Clowns for Progress and 22 Jacks--two acts from New York and L.A., respectively--a few years ago? Didn't think so.
Quality Park Records: Quality Park has had its best hope for national recognition (the Baptist Generals' No Silver/No Gold) cherry-picked by Sub Pop Records, and doesn't appear to have much on its schedule; its most recent release was the vinyl version of the pAper chAse's cntrl-alt-delete-u EP back in January. Maybe Centro-matic will put out another volume of its The Static vs. The Strings series eventually, but that won't do as well as another proper album. Besides, that would come out on Idol, anyway. Other than that? Prolly nothing, until Little Grizzly cuts another record, or Wiring Prank decides to (finally) release its first one.
Idol Records: Idol doesn't seem to have much on the horizon either: Chomsky's nearing a deal with another label, and The Deathray Davies' next disc looks to be headed for an Austin address. Erv Karwelis' label recently released two discs by Detroit-based bands, The Fags and Watershed, but it's too soon to tell if they will broaden Idol's reach.
Summer Break Records: Summer Break looks to be faring better than most, with Sorta's Laugh Out Loud in stores, and records by Sparrows and I Love Math heading there in the next couple of months. All three should do well around here, and maybe even beyond. And Todd Deatherage, who released his Dream Upon a Fallen Star on Summer Break last year, is doing well for himself in New York. Of course, he might be doing so well that he won't need Summer Break anymore. So there goes that.
Here's an idea...that will probably never work: Join forces. Pool your resources. Give local bands no excuse to go elsewhere. The Dallas music community has the parts; it just needs the right mechanic to put them together and get it running. But then again, what do we know? We thought Crystal Pepsi was going to be a force in the soft-drink industry for years to come.
Of course, we haven't mentioned all the local outfits looking for your coin. There's always Brando Records, but getting excited about those guys is like getting excited about a tax deadline. Sure, Slow Roosevelt's Weightless was good and heavy, and South FM's Drama Kids proved that they're better than we initially gave them credit for. But the rest? You've got Alligator Dave and the Couch Band, which one critic described as "a random assortment of frat boys, led by the unfortunately dreadlocked, self-styled 'Gulf Coast Honky,' who probably was the rest of the band's weed hook-up in college." And Evamore, who another writer called "a couple of local journeymen (read: scrubs) and a front man who appears to have missed his audition with disco-sideshow Le Freak." (Actually, both of those comments came from us. But they're as true now as they were then.) Sad thing is, if some label does make noise outside of 214, it'll probably be Brando; after all, every time a record rep drops by KDGE-FM, he asks how he can get his hands on a copy of Evamore's debut. Which just shows how screwed up the music biz is in general. But that's another topic for another day.