Flak racket
Last Beat Records

Once one of my favorite local bands because they were so weird--a rock band that splintered off into oddball free-jazz jam, a hard-core guitar band fronted by Earl Harvin's funky drumming--they are now one of my favorite local bands because they've become so straight, harnessing their broad power into sharp, short cuts. And if there is indeed proof that a band will evolve nicely over time, Beth Clardy's new-found ability to sing instead of merely rant above the noise is a welcome, startling revelation: when she opens the five-song disc droning "You want this, don't resist this" in a growling monotone, it's less a come-on than a threat, especially when she follows up with, "I'll take this with my fist."

Recorded almost eight months ago, rubberbullet is a study in contrasts--Clardy's flat vocals against a barrage of guitar noise created by Aaron Berlin and Richard Paul, songs that begin at the climax and work their way backward, squalling bursts of feedback and static that rage against the backdrop of a whisper. And a song like "Brave," propelled by a hypnotic tribal backbeat and a chorus of distorted riffs, builds slowly but never really peaks; when it finally explodes, it's more like an anticlimax, banging and clanging its way toward a slow fade.

Rubberbullet, though, has always been a band that teetered between the conventional and the avant-garde. Theirs is a familiar rock set-up, but their sound is somehow larger than that--a vulnerable voice holding off an overpowering sound, beautiful music created out of nothing but noise.

Brazos shiver
What the Nothinghead Said
Caroline Records

That they're Austin's bright hope right now isn't surprising: in a city defined by its psychedelic punk and petrified blues scene, and one that's turned out such stale second-hand product as Flowerhead and Seed, Sincola's pop-punk cuts to the quick like no CapCity band since Glass Eye--a fact even Sincola doesn't ignore, hiring Glass Eye bassist Brian Beattie as producer. But where Glass Eye's pop had quirk and spark, Sincola's has the familiarity of the past, which means the band has its quirks and sparks ("Hey Artemis" beats all hell out of would-be single "Bitch") and that indefinable third thing (um, talent?) that puts them over for good.

Robert Wilonsky