Without question, 2000 was a good year for local music, as familiar faces and genuine surprises delivered the rock and didn't take it back. From The Rocket Summer's teenage love rock to Centro-matic's literate onslaught to Captain Audio's well-intentioned pretensions to [DARYL]'s new new wave, there was more than enough to impress. The forecast for next year is even better, with new discs by The Toadies (now set to come out in March), The New Year (the new project from the brothers Kadane), Legendary Crystal Chandelier, Chomsky, and more new music from likes of the pAper chAse, [DARYL], Centro-matic, Little Grizzly, and more. Screw the rest of the country,
The following are excerpts from reviews and stories that appeared in the Dallas Observer during the past year, a few sentences that did their best to explain just why these bands and albums are good enough that they need not be graded on the local curve, given points based on their ZIP code rather than their talent. But you can't just talk about music; you have to hear it for yourself, with headphones wrapped tight around your head or with your windows down on the highway. You have to feel the kick drum knock the wind out of you and hold your ground while overdriven amplifiers blow your hair back. In short, you have to get out there and listen to these albums, these bands, yourself. These brief descriptions are mere starting points, potential catalysts to force you into action.
Budapest One, The Crooner Rides Again (Clandestine Project): (November 2) John Congleton and Gary Long use microphones like megaphones and turn the studio into a tent revival, recording Budapest One in a style that comes as close as possible to capturing singer-guitarist Keith Killoren's onstage theatrics and manic street preaching. And the inclusion of Carter Albrecht on keys and Jason Garner on drums--joining bassist William Pollard, here at least--puts some meat on the music's bones, finding the middle ground between the Crickets and the Attractions while Killoren pounds the pulpit, singing about love and marriage and all the good and bad things that can happen when you get hitched. --Zac Crain
Captain Audio, LUXURY or whether it is better to be loved than feared (Last Beat Records): (March 9) In a way, LUXURY almost feels like a side project, a step to the left instead of straight ahead. Actually, it's a step in every direction, from machine-music instrumentals ("Piano Robotico I") to piano-bar slow burns ("Velvet," complete with saxophone accompaniment lifted from a Glenn Frey solo album) to what-the-fuck? new wave (the too short "Presentame a Tu Novio," which features something resembling a chorus of kazoos). Last year's My ears are ringing..., it appears, was only the shallow end. --Z.C.
Centro-matic, All the Falsest Hearts Can Try (Quality Park Records); South San Gabriel Songs/Music (Idol Records): (April 13) Not only do Will Johnson and company (bassist Mark Hedman, drummer Matt Pence, and piano and fiddle player Scott Danbom) crank new deliveries out quicker than a traditional Irish-Catholic mother, but there's never any filler--every song's a winner. Johnson never repeats himself, treading the same territory without retracing a single step. Each song stands on its own. When you consider Johnson's impressive back catalog, you don't ask yourself, "Can he keep it up?"--you only think of how special each album would be (and how much you'd miss the steady stream of near-brilliant melodies) if Centro-matic released only one a year. --Z.C.
Corn Mo, I Hope You Win! (Hot Link Records): (November 2) To Corn Mo, it's all worth a shot at least once, whether it's power ballads played on an accordion, or magic tricks that only slightly work, or jokes without punch lines. He is at once the worst entertainer in the world and the best because of it. Of course, while it's all very whimsical, it's not played for laughs--there are no wink-winks or conspiratorial tones. Sure, the looks-like-Tommy-Shaw, sounds-like-Dennis-DeYoung bit might Styx in your throat (not mine), but it ain't no joke. Fact is, Corn Mo has a great voice, and he's not afraid to use it, even though his style of singing largely went out around the time of Betamax. --Z.C.
[DARYL], Communication: Duration (Urinine Records): (June 15) It's obvious to compare [DARYL] to the Rentals, one of the few modern bands to weld keyboards onto a full-on rock band. Of course, that's not completely accurate; the differences lie in the background. The members of the Rentals come from the pop and poppier bands Weezer and That Dog, while [DARYL]'s come from punk and indie-rock backgrounds. (Singer-guitarist Dylan Silvers has also done time with the Strafers, the Fitz, Mess, and, now, The Deathray Davies.) Rentals frontman Matt Sharp might be able to write songs like the ones on Communication: Duration if he stopped searching for answers in Spain or another galaxy; Silvers' lyrics hit from experience in the here and now. His voice is both familiar and unplaceable, walking the thin line between speaking, singing, and screaming. There's a rise here, a drop there, but never it falls into monotony or forced emotion. The band is tight and in tune: The four musicians (Communication: Duration was completed before keyboard player Chad Ferman joined) sound like a single instrument. New wave has never sounded so progressive. --Shannon Sutlief
The Deathray Davies, The Return of the Drunk Ventriloquist (Idol Records): (August 3) With the band's second album, The Return of the Drunk Ventriloquist, the diverse influences that contribute to John Dufilho's music continue to be apparent, as does his unique creative vision. The recordings reflect the wacky, just-havin'-fun spirit that the Davies embody during the live show. Even the darker tracks, especially "Evaporated," are extremely impressive reflections of what the band is capable of, without departing too much from the energetic sound. "Chinese Checkers and Devo Records," with its unique recording style (it sounds as if someone keeps adjusting the volume knob) and many contributors, ends the album on a definite high note. All in all, the album is impressive, which is what people have come to expect from The Deathray Davies in a pretty short period of time. --Erin Judge
The Falcon Project, Lights Karma Action (Idol Records): (October 5) Songs bleed into one another, guitars bleed into keybs, keybs bleed into tablas until it's the most gorgeous car wreck this side of J.G. Ballard. You can hear the "jazz" (mellow organs mooing on track two, "Orange Power," which possibly refers to solar energy) and vibe on the "R&B" (the third song, "Soul Divider," sounds like something Greg Dulli cooked up after a binger), but you can tell these guys are happiest when they rock, ambient effects be damned (oh, and they will be). Only problem is, the record starts too high and ends too low; the so-called "cosmic symphony" that appears eight tracks in is better suited to a stoner's Pink Floyd laser-light-show extravaganza--by then, I'm out. If you need proof these fellows are prog, check the song titles: "Meditations #3: The Secret Life of Plants" and "Eci-ruam," ad nauseam. Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. Main reason this album's better than the last one: no Sonic Youth cover . --Robert Wilonsky
Mandarin, Driftline (Two Ohm Hop): (November 2) At times, you may hear Nick Drake echoing in the thoughtfully strummed quasi-folk of Driftline, or Pink Floyd lingering near the edges of Jayson Wortham's voice and the band's extended, cascading instrumentals. And, well, you probably do, though they're just a few threads in a big quilt, not enough to start haggling over songwriting credits. The best trick Mandarin pulls off wouldn't even show up on the sheet music anyway: the ability play forcefully and quietly at the same time. Driftline is restrained without being relaxed, keeping the pressure on even when the sound's down and the pace slows. --Z.C.
Nourallah Brothers, Nourallah Brothers (Western Vinyl): (November 2) I've listened to it a few dozen times now, and I still hear something new each time, the subtle sound effects on "A Morning Cigarette" being the latest find. And each time there's a new favorite: the first few times around it was the one-two combination of "Public Skool" and "I Wanna Be an Artist," two of the least self-conscious songs I've heard in some time. Later, it was the sad-eyed "Down," and now, I'm not sure. "My Little Innocent One," which Elliott Smith left off of XO? Or maybe "Heaven Is the Day," which ups the ante for any Elephant 6 acolytes? I don't know. At any rate, Nourallah Brothers is the alternate soundtrack to Rushmore, a piece of the '60s that you can hold in your hand and in your head. --Z.C.
the pAper chAse, Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know (Beatville Records): (August 24) The pAper chAse is in a league with ...and you will know us by the trail of dead and Centro-matic as the best this state has to offer, and joins the ranks of Carbomb, the Butthole Surfers, and the Big Boys before them as the kind of punk band only Texas could spawn, melding bored ambition with whacked-out, fucked-up Texan fervor. Their live show is consistently inspired, at times nearly improvised, with Congleton directing the show as he dances with his guitar, until the microphone stand cuts in. The pAper chAse's Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know, is miles ahead of any expectations, the rawest album to come from Texas since trail of dead's Madonna hit stores last year. It's a concept album, sadly enough, but one so good that it's not at all sickening when Congleton says, "It's a record that's a commitment, like The Wall, where you don't just skip around to your favorite songs. You have to listen to it all the way through." --Amelia Abreu
Prize Money, All Eyes on the Prize (etherStream/One Ton): (November 2) All Eyes On the Prize is propelled as much by singer-guitarist Dave Gibson's cynical lyrics--"Did I even think of this myself/Or did you put the words in my mouth?" he sings on the somewhat sarcastically titled "It's Not Your Fault"--as by the ever-present overdriven guitars and Jerry Saracini's muscular beats. Listening to Gibson's lyrics, you can't forget they've been around for a while: "You wore our T-shirt/You were our biggest fan/And then you slept with all the other bands," he tells his "Rock 'N' Roll Girlfriend." "Hey, whatever happened to me?" Thankfully, Gibson never poses that question to former label Geffen in the lyrics--you'd never notice if he does--letting the songs just be songs, about girls and music and how well they go together. --Z.C.
The Rocket Summer, The Rocket Summer (Self-released): (May 4) The Rocket Summer doesn't sound like the work of one person (Grapevine High School Senior Bryce Avary); there's too much going on. Most solo recordings take a decidedly lo-fi approach, and even the ones that don't are generally stripped-down affairs, sticking to a guitar-bass-drums arrangement. Avary, on the other hand, crams each song with extra sounds--keyboards, bells, more guitars, synthesizers, electronic drums, piano, and track after track of vocals. Working out of Arlington's Deedle's Room Recording (the studio owned and operated by 19-year-old Darrell "Deedle" LaCour, who plays guitar in 41 Gorgeous Blocks), Avary took advantage of the studio's 24-track recorder. In fact, he recorded so many tracks for each song that you can't hear all of it. LaCour helped engineer the recordings, but everything else is the product of Avary--and there is nothing lo-fi or stripped-down about any of it. Each song reminds you of what being young and rock and roll is all about . --Z.C.
Slobberbone, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today (New West Records): (July 13) Singer-guitarist Brent Best has never sounded worse or better, even when insisting, "I'm a lazy guy/I'm amazed at the way some people try and try and try/To erect and then perfect some kind of purpose in their lives before they die." But no longer does the airtight band play keep-up: Drummer Tony Harper, bassist-etc. Brian Lane, and guitarist Jess Barr play till their fingers bleed, then let the album's eight guests (including Jim Dickinson) bandage the wounds and take over. Like Best sings in "Trust Jesus," "Lord I'm only just one man/Lord I've only got two hands/Lord I'll do the best I can." Hard to imagine he could do much better. --R.W.
Stumptone, Stumptone (Two Ohm Hop): (January 20) At times, it's best to think of Chris Plavidal as Skip Spence with better equipment and fewer mental misfires, especially when it's just him and his guitar, singing his way through a cloud of studio gimmickry, such as the mellow gold of "To a Departed Comet." (A song that contains perhaps the best line of the disc: "Soon the sky will open/And the rain will pound the earth like an angry child.") But as deftly as Plavidal handles the sparse numbers, he's at his best on the fire-all-of-your-guns-at-once rockers such as "Drugs on War" and "From the Sociable Harbinger." "Drugs on War" may be the best example of Plavidal's strengths, from the raindrop handclaps that lurk beneath the surface to the overdriven guitars that come on like a battering ram to his joyous, confident vocals. When he sings "Tonight is the night we're gonna change the world," you can't help but think he might be right. --Z.C.
Sub Oslo, Dubs in the Key of Life (Two Ohm Hop): (June 29) Recorded during a few months at the end of last year and beginning of this one at John Nuckels' Sueno Studios in Denton, Dubs in the Key of Life is the product of a group of musicians (joined by Gregory Lange on slide guitar and Reade Dawson on mandolin) finding its groove and getting comfortable in it. They give the songs room to stretch out--"Mi Familia re-dub," the shortest song on the disc, clocks in at a little under 10 minutes--and air to breathe, letting the melody wander in and out of the song, sometimes disappearing for minutes at a time. All that space leaves plenty of room for Nuckels' busy hands; I spent a good 10 minutes trying to decide if a phone was ringing in the office or on the disc. I'm still not sure. --Z.C.
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Tripping Daisy, Tripping Daisy (Sugar Fix/Good Records): (April 27) This is Tripping Daisy at its best..."Kids Are Calling" jumps and fizzes like Pop Rocks on the tongue with its tangle of strings, keyboards, and the infectious "in the sun" refrain. There are several of Tripping Daisy's signature rocking pop songs, but the band also slows for more symphonic, introspective moments such as the dreamy and beautiful "Drama Day Weekend." When the space after "The Sudden Shift Worried Him" becomes a hidden track (which could have been titled "Break It On Down"), Tripping Daisy and Tripping Daisy end on a smile instead of sorrow. Which was always the band's expertise anyway. --S.S.
Union Camp, Fever and Pain (Rock Show Records): (May 11) The band Chris Briggs, Jimmy Smith, Jon Turner, and Colin Carter play in is still very much alive. Maybe more alive than it ever was. And all it took was trading one old word (Check) for two new ones: Union Camp. It was a good decision, but that's not why Union Camp is better than Check was. The songs on the group's recently released album, Fever and Pain (recorded last summer), are much better, mainly because the grip on the dirty Southern rock sound the band's always been striving for is much tighter. Songs like "War Whistle" and "Raised by Wolves" stink of cheap liquor and sawdust-covered floors, barroom workouts that recall the Georgia Satellites (in a good way) and their neighbors Slobberbone (in a better way). --Z.C.
Vibrolux, Vibrolux (Last Beat Records): (December 7) Kim Pendleton has never sounded lovelier or more terrifying: Hers is a dangerous whisper of a voice, that of a weary jazz singer fronting a rock band (or art-rock band, or art-R&B band, by the time you get to "Finest" near album's end). Sometimes, on a song such as the roiling "Love Letters," it's clean and crystalline; other times, it's rough and ragged, a rusty nail that leaves a nasty cut. It's as though two singers live within her, both fighting for control: One possesses a switchblade sneer, the other a radiant smile, and both will cut you just the same. --R.W.
Various Artists, Band-Kits: A Compilation of Denton, Texas Music ca. 2000 (Quality Park Records): (March 9) Perhaps the best sign that George Neal (who spearheaded this project) and Quality Park Records' Matt Barnhart did their job well is that Band-Kits is more than a historical document. It's a great album as well, the kind of record you can put in your CD player and never want to take out. And it's not just the big names (well, in a manner of speaking) that deliver the rock: Union Camp's dirty-South boogie ("War Whistle") is what most people mean when they say country-rock, and Mandarin's beautiful "Here and Leaving" has you counting the minutes until its own album comes out in the spring. Of course, Neal's not completely satisfied. As it says in the liner notes of the disc, "For every band compiled here, there are 17 more who weren't." --Z.C.