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Johnny angel... It never surprises Houston-bred Johnny Goudie when discussions of his music turn quickly to his vocals. Sure, the effervescent hooks and crunching guitars that drive his bittersweet paeans to various malfunctioning emotions deserve their share of attention. But it's his sugary croon -- surely the high-pitched result of some misdirected hormones early in life -- that lifts Goudie above the standard grunge-pop ilk. With the voice of an angel disguising a mutant's acid tongue, Goudie throws out blunt statements such as "she would screw her uncle for his stash" with enough authority to toughen the thin layer of attitude that shields his softer side. Vulnerability has rarely sounded so visceral.

"All along, I've been trying to sing like a girl; that's where it comes from," says Goudie, who opens for Innocence Mission at Deep Phat Monday.

Goudie, who lives in Austin, wasn't always so willing to succumb to his feminine side. During a late '80s gig as lead singer for the Houston funk-soul outfit Panjandrum, Goudie did his best to play the macho front guy, adjusting his voice ("I used to over-sing everything," he admits) to meet the expectations of the band's sturdy rhythms and propulsive live shows. The whole thing was a bit of an embarrassment, says Goudie, whose slight frame and demure features make him an unlikely candidate for center of attention. "I was the fool," he recalls. "Mostly I just drank a lot, and by the end of the show I was in my underwear -- real cool."

In 1990, tense feelings over a potential publishing deal resulted in Panjandrum's disintegration, and after a relatively short-lived project with the group's bassist, Chris King (now with Carolyn Wonderland), Goudie moved to Austin. There, Goudie reunited with former Panjandrum guitarist Richard Weiss to form the band Mr. Rocket Baby. Almost immediately, the group's precise melodies and exceptional skill at reinterpreting the ideas of its British Invasion heroes struck a chord with critics and clubgoers. Mr. Rocket Baby contributed tunes to various Texas compilation CDs and recorded a debut that found its way to Austin radio stations. All the positives culminated in Best Pop Band honors for the group in the Austin Chronicle's 1993 readers poll. But again, just as things were going the band's way and the potential for fame entered the picture, Mr. Rocket Baby fizzled.

Untimely breakups have been a recurring theme in Goudie's career -- a string of bad luck that he hopes will end with his latest project, a trio with ex-Awful Truth bassist Einar and drummer Kyle Schneider, formerly of Seed. Goudie recently put 11 songs to tape with his friend Billy White (of the Billy White Trio) as producer. Yet to be released, the collection features a few standouts -- in particular, the Cheap Trick-style epic "Cellophane" and "Teen Venus," an aching ode to an adolescent crush. While the demo's a strong example of Goudie's work, the in-person introduction is even more impressive. On-stage, Goudie's trio is an enthralling sight, with its leader -- paint-splattered guitar slung just below his hips -- glued to a mike a few inches too high for his mouth, while Einar jerks around to Schneider's fluid beat. The band's sets usually include a few choice covers, including a sincere rendition of the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby," a tribute to Goudie's latest idol: Brian Wilson.

"He really changed my life; he helped me figure out some things about myself," Goudie says. "Like, I could never really understand why I wasn't a metal guy. I'm not the world's most incredible guitar player. But I realized that you don't have to have a guitar solo; you can just use your voice to do all that stuff."

Fresh Munchies... Local musician Mitch Burman recently purchased Munchies on Richmond Avenue with some big plans in mind. Burman, bassist for the Houston band Gone Blind (regulars on the Munchies stage), says he fell in love with the place a few years back while working there as a part-time bartender. The new Munchies re-opened February 6 sporting an interior with a new "international eclectic look." Expect a name change sometime in the near future, but don't expect changes in the entertainment offerings: Burman gives his assurance that live music will continue to be a priority at the club.

Etc.... It's tough to shock jaded rock fans, but perhaps witnessing members of the Sex Pistols, Duran Duran and Guns 'N' Roses sharing a stage peacefully Tuesday at the Urban Art Bar will do the trick. The Neurotic Boy Outsiders -- made up of Guns 'N' Roses' Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan, Duran Duran's John Taylor and former Sex Pistol Steve Jones -- started in Los Angeles as a Monday-night lark at the trendy Viper Room and has germinated into something slightly more significant. Part punk, part hard rock, the band is hitting clubs in support of its upcoming CD, due in stores later this month.

Other upcoming shows of note: at Numbers, mosh-pit icon Henry Rollins takes the stage Thursday for an evening of spoken-word profundity; Friday, Little Bryan Terry and the Zydeco Travelers are going high-tech, filming and taping their show at the Shakespeare Pub for a new CD-ROM; also Friday, Jesse Dayton will play his last solo gig in Houston at McGonigel's Mucky Duck before heading out of town for a tour with Sub Pop cow-punks the Supersuckers. -- Hobart Rowland

 
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