Out Here

Smokin' in the noise room

Walkin off Naked
Womb Tune Records

No one could ever accuse the modern-day psychedelia crowd of not being awfully damned funny, even if it is usually unintentionally so; hell, that makes it more enjoyable anyway--a belly laugh instead of a hidden snicker. For proof, look only to the Flaming Lips, Wayne Coyne's Okie-dokie joyboy acid-test, a band that metamorphosed one day into a parking garage full of 40 cars playing different pieces of the same song. Now that's hilarious--chaos masquerading as art, music for lowbrows who only think they want to be highbrows. Takes a special kind of doper to make and listen to and freakin' love this pop-pop-noise, especially when beneath all the aural effects--are those strings or screams?--is a melody dying to break free of its suffocating shell.

For years, that's been just the speciality of J. Bone Cro--otherwise known to his family as J. Scott Sutton, long ago a Pagan Rhythms employee till he opened up his own Bone Daddy's avant emporium in that suburban dreamland known as Plano. Used to be, Cro wanted to be a trance-bluesman like R.L. Burnside doing Roky Erickson covers, or Hank Williams Sr. in Wayne Coyne's borrowed duds. Cro's first disc, 1995's Songs Aliens Left Behind, sounded like something beamed in from the Mars-to-Pluto shortwave in 1953, with Robert Johnson playing scratch-and-sniff DJ. Four years and five records later under various noms de freakout, Sutton's now playing with Wes Cummings in Jalopy, and a more apropos name you won't find. Walkin Off Naked sounds like a rickety little beast rolling down bumpity-bump side streets. Half the time it sounds like it's going to fall apart; the other half it blows to bits, spewing smoke all over the place--and inhaling a bit of it second-hand might do a kid a little good.

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Otherwise, the helium-kiddie vocals might go down the wrong pipe; otherwise, you're bound to take it all a bit too seriously, which is where most psychedelia goes wrong to begin with. The disc starts off earnestly enough ("Crystal Clear Imagination" might make for good pop were it not for the freakout effects). Then, I've always thought modern-day psychedelic boys fuzzed up their pop because they're too embarrassed to go all the way; it's so damned easy to hide behind tumult and mayhem, pretending your music's weirder than it really is. Which explains why about halfway through (around the time you're warned, "Don't Roast Peanuts During the Wild Animal Act," funny stuff), Walkin goes soaring off into "The Real Spacy Stuff"--meaning the musicians take a back seat to the popular mechanics of "experimental" music. Fact is, it's easier to throw in the junkyard fuzz and feedback static and keyboard drones and spasmodic drumming than it is to play it straight from discernible start to thank-God finish. Nothing too avant anymore in making unlistenable records.

--Robert Wilonsky

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