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The bespectacled, forever-a-grad-student Thomas kicked around with some other bands--among them Green Engine and Jack, the latter with ageless punk brat Barry Kooda--before starting up Slow Roosevelt about three years ago. Odd that such violence and bile ("It's my friends I'd like to kill!") comes from a guy who's so personable. Odder still that Thomas' longtime stage antics--reverbed bullhorn, seizures, and all--match the blood-spitting tension of the music. At first glance, he comes off like your best friend's articulate and bookish little brother. But as the screaming Peter of Slow Roosevelt, he's about one step removed from the Charlie Manson of Helter Skelter. For music this relentlessly dark, noisy, and abusive, the distance between performer and persona creates the necessary breathing room.

Slow Roosevelt draws an ever-growing crowd--the therapeutic catharsis that apparently works so well for Thomas (we don't think he's actually killed or raped anyone, anyway) works for his audience too. The band's two albums, 1996's Starving St. Nick and last year's throwawayyourstereo, are case studies in what happens when real smart guys grow up listening to Bad Brains and watching porn; these fellers are more concerned with gut-eating content than musical subtlety. Yet the progression between the two albums is worth noting: Where St. Nick came off like a scattered and still-smoking train wreck, throwaway boasts a cohesion and roll-with-it depth that comes only with age and experience.

Thomas' longtime bandmates--Scott Minyard on guitar, Mark Sodders on bass, and Aaron Lyons on drums--provide the menacing, airtight vehicle for Thomas' kamikaze mission. Slow Roosevelt ("Slow-Ro," to all you voters) not only makes its camp at the harder-is-better One Ton label; it's practically the label mascot. And once you've seen the band live, seen Thomas arson his way through the set with the ire of an A/V nerd on a psychotic binge, you'll do well to get outta the way and let him burn, baby, burn.

--Christina Rees

Gabrielle Douglas (Buck Jones)
Winner for: Female Vocalist
So Buck Jones' Gabrielle Douglas--Gabby, to those in the know--is the towering new siren in Dallas. You'll get no argument here. Blithe and lithe behind a bass that almost obscures her, she's a pretty, seductive rock-pop princess who makes pretty, seductive rock pop. She's hardly the calculated ingenue, but more a natural shining star. Gabby is only half the vocal ingredient of Buck Jones: Mr. Gabrielle Douglas, a.k.a. Burette, is the other. The two equally share the lead on songs as though that were written into their marriage vows, so you can't talk about Gabrielle's wiles without balancing against her the rest of the band's wares. Swirling, ethereal, and moody one moment, hubby-on-a-mission-to-rock the next, Buck Jones--which also features Cody Lee on drums and Tommy Meador on guitar--is a dichotomy in slow bloom. Has been since the beginning.

Buck Jones is a band everyone near and dear to the local music biz--its fellow artists, scenesters, even the media--has loved and predicted grand things for as far back as 1996, when its self-done debut Shoegazer got a brief salute in Billboard. (The Observer has been writing about the band since 1994, when there were two female singers.) But neither the crowds nor the label offers ever came. The 1997 follow-up for steve records, Shimmer, was heralded across the board as an outstanding local effort, but it seems in retrospect like a Polaroid of a band still tottering, unable to find the perfect equilibrium. The post-Shimmer live show grew more stable, slowly attracting slightly bigger crowds as the band honed its dizzying combination of bombastic wandering rock and down-the-middle power pop. Still, Buck Jones remained a band that many praise, but far fewer actually clamor to see.

So how do you solve a problem like Buck Jones? It's a worthwhile question, rock-and-roll truthseeking brought on by a critically praised band that appears to be a walking contradiction. Can you capture the hearts of the masses while giving them two disparate sounds at the same time? The band signed with One Ton last year, so it's Aden Holt's knot to unravel now. Buck Jones is generally considered One Ton's not-so-secret commercial weapon, a potential motherlode that counters One Ton's two tons of metal, but the act has teetered on the verge of being The Next Big Whatever before. And from the previews of the forthcoming Buck Jones album gleaned from the One Ton sampler Big & Bothered Vol. 2, the knot just gets tighter. One track, "Decide," features Burette doing his Everyman John Lennon, churning guitars washing over a stomping beat. But singing between "Imaginary Lines," Gabrielle's voice bounces upon a field of sweet, spacey pop; suddenly, everything feels so up. Both tracks are perfect paradigms of the two faces of Buck Jones; they're both first-rate, it's just that they sound as though they were recorded by two different good bands. Every band should have such problems.

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Zac Crain
Contact: Zac Crain
Jimmy Fowler
Scott Kelton Jones
Keven Mcalester
Jessica Parker
Christina Rees
Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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