Out Here

Bourbon and water street

Hippie Gumbo
Instigator Records

Most bands from Dallas sound as though they could be from anywhere; theirs is so often a brand of music plucked from a Sam's Wholesale shelf and served up stale before it's even out of the box. Bands such as Loveswing, Triprocket, even Caulk are knocking off someone else's knock-off; they might as well hail from Kansas or Los Angeles, so phony and prefab are their fabrications (they're like Bizarro world imitations of, respectively, Nirvana, Garbage, and The Jesus Lizard). Which leaves a band like Hippie Gumbo a winner by default in the novelty sweepstakes: Well, gawl dang, imagine that--a band from Texas that actually sounds like it's from Texas (or Louisiana, which is damned near the same thing by the time you cross the border at Uncertain). They could do without the "Hippie" prefix--it seems a rather shameless ploy to lure the Dada Dead crowd that falls for anything wrapped in a tie-dyed T-shirt. But they're a more-than-passable (watch the backhand, sir) zydeco band that seems to understand the difference between good-time music and eager-to-please musicianship. Meaning: Slurp!, for a little while at least, has a ball without begging you to have one too.

Like the Bluerunners before they got too slow or Buckwheat Zydeco before he got too old, Hippie Gumbo at its best exists at that point where zydeco and pop cross paths without getting in each other's way; that's what happens when a zydeco fetishist (singer-accordionist Rick Reid) hooks up with a Beatles freak (guitarist-singer Dick Fisher) and splits the difference. In the end, it's Reid (formerly of Zydeco Faux Pas, a band every bit as playful as its name) who gives the record its kick. "Johnny Stola Buick," "Easy on the Eyes," and "Voodoo Doll" (with its smart Perez Prado sample--the best thing on the record) have what Barry Switzer used to call speed and quickness; they begin with a snap and end with a bang, and they're funny enough to mistake for jokes if you ignore the fact they don't have punchlines. And "Loaded" is a white-trash redo of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," a love story with a drugs-and-booze backbeat ("I wanna get high/I wanna get loaded") and a little beat-down poetry for good measure ("she's so beautiful/so pharmaceutical").

But every now and then, the Cajun crack turns into dull pop: "Stand On Your Feet" plays like dead-on-its-feet solo McCartney; "Cryin' Time" sounds like that folk-rock that drives 'em nuts down on Fraternity Row; and "Little Fool," with its sugar-sweet harmonies and overwrought couplets ("It's not too late to try/To death defy"), is either a sharp Squeeze parody or a sincere failure that ends the record on an inappropriate down moment. Save the art move for the fifth record, fellas.

--Robert Wilonsky


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