'Round the Dial: Get your rock edumacation right here
Wednesday 17 January @ 14:28:47
by TOM HALLETT
The last thing I thought I'd be doing this past weekend was standing around sober in an almost-empty local bar at quarter to three in the morning, discussing the majesty/tragedy of Roky Erickson's music and life story with some kid who'd spent half the night running up to my DJ booth asking "Who's that?" over and over as I spun Guess Who, Spirit and Sweet tunes for an oldies party.
Turned out the kid really knew some of Roky's songs, though after hearing him confess he'd never heard Roky's infamous psychedelic outfit The 13th Floor Elevators, I had to remind him that not only had I just played a live version of "You're Gonna Miss Me" a few minutes earlier, but that the song itself was now being used to plug Dell computers on television commercials. Hopefully, Roky is receiving some kind of financial compensation for his music being de-fanged and craftily inserted in an ad that sells cheap computers to a generation who thinks somebody actually wrote that song FOR the commercial. Sigh.
Anyways, by the time my cab had arrived, I'd played a five-song set of Roky's music for the kid, the bartender and the three ancient customers nursing their watery bourbons and mushy margaritas; told him to check out Roky's music and story online (and suggest you all do, too) and left feeling like I'd at least accomplished a bit more towards furthering general musical knowledge than the people making beaucoup bucks using it in commercials have.
I slept better that night than I have in weeks, though I'm not sure whether it was the musical thrills or the tryptophan from the giant bird the staff had cooked up for the party. All I know is, Roky popped up again when I sat down to pen this week's column, as you'll find out in our first review here ...
If you read my Jon Dee Graham reviews last week (or you've paid attention to the liner notes on the 50 or so albums Austin psychedelic trip-hopper/rocker Hughes has contributed to), you probably recall my mentioning him as a contributor to Graham's latest album, Full. Or you might remember him as a member of former college rock trippers Poi Dog Pondering, and if you really pay attention to great music that's mystifyingly ignored by major press sources, you might remember that Bruce also contributed to 1990's Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye, a killer tribute to the music of Roky Erickson.
Bottom line is, Hughes is a prolific and gifted singer, songwriter, musician and a true sound forger in his own right. Bluebird, which was recorded and mixed between Austin and New Orleans, is a bountiful, sometimes-bizarre-but-never-boring compendium of Bruce's finest talents. Nature intervened in the completion of the album when Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on Louisiana and the surrounding states, but the end result is a complex, heady brew of beat-savvy, whip-smart lyricism and absolutely golden vocals.
Hughes' sound ranges from the heart-rending, melancholy keyboard groove of Ben Folds to the trance-y, X-inflected (the drug, not the band) lull of Portishead, to the psychedelic, axe-layered works of some of his musical heroes (perhaps Roky?). Right off the bat, he catches the listener by surprise with the soothing, Ben Harper-esque "Lie To Me," which takes a delicious turn with lyrics like "What's a bitch like me supposed to do / When he falls in love with a bitch like you ..."
Other standout tracks include the lonesome, found-sound-packed "Nothin' Out Here," the half-soothing, half-terrifying lope of "Halo," which recalls a musical melding of late-period Chuck Prophet and mid-'90s Spearhead, and the chugging, hypnotic tweak of album closer "Ten," a dreamy slice of electronic mod-pop that would surely earn a nod of approval from ol' Roky Erickson himself. All in all, a brilliant, vibrant collection of nuggets that manages to challenge a bevy of musical borders while leaving behind a satisfied, dazed glow. Cool stuff. Check Bruce out at myspace.com/brucehughesmusic.
Third Creature Feat. Jack Logan
Though it's been seven years since his last "major" project, don't assume Georgia-based singer/songwriter/ former critics' darling Jack Logan has just been sitting around on his duff. The former mechanic who had the cojones to release a 42-song debut album (Bulk) has launched a side-label (Backburner Records) with old chum cohort Kelly Keneipp, furthered the careers of countless acolytes and followers and continued to self-release a slew of tasty treats with his pals The Monday Night Recorders.
Third Creature's debut—which features Logan, Kelly and Nikki Keneipp, Aaron Phillips, Rob Keller and Jason Gonzalez—finds the man and his core team of pro players thrusting out a much more furious, driving album than anything he's done post-Mood Elevator. Yup, it's part pure-dee, lick-a-licious garage rock, with more shrieking axe work than most Logan-ites are used to (on recordings, anyway), but it's also packed with Jack's delightful word-play, Nikki's gorgeous keyboard work and string arrangements, and a soulful, memorable message that sticks in your brain long after the CD has stopped spinning.
Opener "Manage The Damage" is a pumping, striving beast of a melancholy anthem, finding Logan in fine voice and the band—not a surprise, as most of this particular line-up has nearly as much (or more) studio/stage time behind them as many decades-old classic rockers do—displaying an ingrained flow and camaraderie than most of the current hear-today/gone-tomorrow outfits stinking up major commercial radio stations from coast-to-coast.
"Mr. Sticky" is a rousing, backyard barbeque blaster of the highest order, Logan posing the question, "What kind of vegetable do people think I am?" "The Tunnel Remains" is a feverish, trippy journey into the depths of Logan's darkest hollows bolstered by absolutely ripping, paranoid guitars and "A Reason For This" is a deceptively sleepy, secretly seething ballad that's every bit as powerful as anything on any of Jack's more lauded efforts: "Drivin' around / Burnin' gas in my truck / If this town was a hay-stack / I'm afraid I would burn it right down / To find my needle / Buried in ash on the ground / There is a purpose to this / There is a reason I persist ..."
Here's to hoping Logan and his ilk continue to persist, as it's voices (and sounds) like this that will, long into the future, prove that America continued to produce intelligent, proud, from-the-gut underground music long after the last of the "I'll never sell outs" have, well, sold out. Kudos to Jack and the gang—check this one and more great stuff out at fundamentalrecords.com and find out for yourself.
That's about all we've got room for this time out, gang—see ya back here next week, same space, same time, for more reviews, etc.
If you have local music news/gigs/events/CDs you'd like to see mentioned in this space, or you'd just like to discuss "The Creature With The Atom Brain" with a kindred spirit, send replies to: Tmygunn77764@yahoo.com. ||