A few weeks ago, as usual, we were speaking out of ignorance. "Why don't local bands put out more compilation CDs?" we griped. "Why don't they get together more often, do something cool and out of the ordinary?" We were thinking along the lines of hoot nights, actually, or a production of Pippin, but then--as if to punish (or reward) our whining--the following two things landed on our desk.
Mark Ridlen has turned his lifelong affection for exotica music--that kitschy, cocktail-swilling sister to surf and lounge--into a perfectly quirky and unique party album, Texotica. By night, Ridlen goes by the name "DJ Rid" and runs karaoke nights at XPO Lounge and The Sapphire Room; by day, he is a music buff and collector extraordinaire who assembled 27 tracks from musicians, DJs, fake bands and other oddballs for this local compilation. Case in point: Fran Baskerville, a.k.a. "The Singing Psychic," a Howard Stern regular who claims to find missing children through song. Her contribution, like a handful on the album, is more enjoyable for its kook factor than its musicality--"I'm the singing psychic," she sings in her Betty Boop chirp, "and I'd like to say hello"--but that's not true of the whole album. The Deathray Davies offer an irresistible go-go cover of the Kinks' "Holiday in Waikiki." The Lucky Pierres break from routine with the slinky "Do You Really Want to Be My Friend?" Corn Mo is up to his wacky, entirely original ways with "Three Wishes," a white-boy rap about being stranded on a deserted island. The Old 97's contribute a rare track, a cover of the Opals' "Northern Line," and while it's out of place among the clavs and birdcalls, it's hard to blame Ridlen for trying to sell the CD with a few marquee names. The best track belongs to the Legendary Crystal Chandelier (LCC), who perform a sexed-up, fuzz-guitar cover of an early Kinks tune, "I'm on an Island."
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Texotica is dedicated to Ridlen's late father, who sparked to Polynesian music while DJ'ing for the armed forces in Seoul, Korea, in the '50s. With its references to South Pacific and obscure Brigitte Bardot, Texotica is not for everyone, especially those trend-spotters who find the whole exotica thing a little, you know, passé--post-Swingers, Combustible Edison and a thousand gimmicky bars with bamboo and umbrella drinks. "The whole thing is played out," says Ridlen proudly, "but I still love it." And where else can you find children's TV icon Mr. Peppermint singing about a Yellow Bird, while his sidekick, Muffin, cracks wise about Mr. P's kid's band, the Butthole Surfers?
Texotica is on sale at CD World and Good Records. Volume 2 comes out in April and will include a track in which Lady Bird Johnson talks about gardening.
Human Rights Initiative Benefit
A few pieces of local trivia: Did you know that Hurst-Euless-Bedford is home to a large Central African population? Of course not. Did you know that, owing to an international airport and a sizable immigrant community, Dallas is a common destination for political refugees? No, you ignorant yuppie, you didn't. Which means that you probably don't know about the Human Rights Initiative. Well, neither did we, until four local heavyweights--the pAper chAse, Pleasant Grove, Budapest One and [DARYL]--decided to play a benefit at the Sons of Hermann Hall on Sunday, January 18. So, to fill you in, the Human Rights Initiative recruits lawyers to help political refugees find safety, jobs and homes. Though you might think (well, we did) that means working with a Spanish-speaking community, co-founder Betsy Healy says most of their clients are from Africa--often Cameroon and Zimbabwe. These are brave and highly educated people, activists for women's rights and HIV/AIDS, people fighting for democratic elections in a dictatorship. But you don't need to know that to enjoy Sunday's show, featuring some of the best bands in Dallas. While you're there, congratulate John Congleton and the pAper chAse for their placement on the forthcoming Kill Rock Stars compilation, Track and Fields, which will feature "I'm Your Doctor Now" alongside tracks by The Decemberists and Superchunk. Suggested donation for Sunday's benefit is $8. Show starts at 7 p.m.