Hard Rock Life

How I learned to love an old new genre

Has it really rained this much? Like, all of June? Seriously?

Cuz the shit is starting to put a very literal damper on the Dallas music situation. Who wants to pay five bucks to park, only to have to sprint two blocks through a wall of precipitation, soaking your jeans from cuff to knee, to get to a venue? Many brave souls have kept at it for the past several weeks, but the constant downpour eventually takes its psychological toll, one would think, working subconsciously to keep folks home and not out enjoying a fine music scene.

Worse, the rain has finally taken a very specific toll, as our very own Fair to Midland, currently touring with 69 Eyes, found themselves stranded between El Paso and Lamar Street on Monday night, held off from a House of Blues show in their hometown (more or less, since they're from Sulphur Springs) by the inclement environment.

This was meant to be a column about FTM, who recently have bombarded the desks of Dallas media with a slew of press releases bearing good news: Fair to Midland is playing Coachella. Fair to Midland has been chosen by the Smashing Pumpkins to open a few shows for them during SP's residency in San Francisco at the Fillmore. Fair to Midland's debut disc Fables From a Mayfly debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard New Artists list.

It's fascinating that a group that plays an odd brand of art metal/twisted-but-subtle hard rock has hit it so big (and it looks like they're gonna hit it bigger), and that they may be the best hope we have right now for a Dallas music success story on a national scale. But we'll have to wait to discuss that at a later date—thanks, weather!

Meantime, Fair to Midland at least brings up the subject of hard rock here in Dallas. It's noticeable, for instance, that the genre serves as an umbrella term for anything that could be termed "hard-charging," but for our purposes, let's just say it's the type of music that incorporates all or some of the elements of arty metal, rockabilly, punk, ska, Southern rock and barroom power-chord-driven tunes—all of which prove sometimes cheesy, but definitely genuine. Thing is, these days, such an aesthetic lives a dual life. On the one hand, it will always have a place; it's an American institution, especially in the Midwest, and Dallas has as much of a hard rock streak as anyplace. At the same time, though, the genre has fallen out of style, what with the current fetishization of ironic/semi-ironic new new wave, roots-based stuff and the peculiar rise of soundscape artists such as Animal Collective.

That said, it's fortuitous, then, that three CDs recently landed on my desk amidst the Fair to Midland press releases: Deep Snapper, Non Radio Friendly and the Lash Outs, as all three represent excellent local examples of hard rock. Here's a brief introduction to all three:

Deep Snapper
A Drowning Man Can Pull You Under
Self-produced

This crew of Dentonites might be the best of the bunch, somehow ripping original sounds from overdriven guitars and growling vocals. Jagged gee-tars move through the songs at angles like that tank in Tron; the vocals simultaneously eschew normal melodies and draw you in, which is a rare thing. The rhythm section, meantime, plays hard and true, holding down the fort. At first listen there's an almost drunken, Hickoids thing going on. On second listen, you realize this is intentional. On third listen, you realize the illusion is brilliant. (See www.deepsnapper.net.)

Non Radio Friendly
Bury This Broken Heart
Self-produced

This DFW trio clearly digs old-school pop punk. Singer Chad Riley's vocals are, well, fun, his voice a punchy mid-range homage to everyone from Elvis Costello to Joe Jackson (yeah, there's definitely an '80s British vibe going on here). The songs are fun too, all sing-along choruses and simple but hooky guitar lines and pogo-friendly drums. This is a joyous crew, but with a distorto-ska edge. (See www.myspace.com/nonradiofriendly.)

The Lash Outs
White Collared Jerk EP
Self-produced

There's no effin' around with this quartet. Snarly, snotty vocals, to-the-point songs and surprisingly accessible lead guitar riffs all combine in taut three-minute songs. They lash out, indeed, getting straight to the point—"I don't wanna be with you!" say the lyrics of the kick-off song. Yet, there's a soft side, as in the ballad "My Life (or Lack Thereof)," which follows a tried and true Buddy Holly formula with sophomorically funny lyrics: "I used to play the field so well/But now I just play with myself." (See www.thelashouts.com.)

 
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