Cybersurfing the Lost Highway

You know this information superhighway thing is about three years on the stale side of new when even a technophobe like yours truly can finally stumble his way through a modem, but that doesn't mean there aren't untapped treasures remaining to be found. That's the idea, anyway, behind local Tone Zone Records' new web site, which is scheduled to go on-line sometime in the next couple of weeks, perhaps even before this terribly outmoded newsprint medium reaches you. Just point your web browser to, and you'll have access to Tone Zone band bios, graphics, information, audio snippets, merchandise order forms, a Tone Zone Art Gallery and something Tone Zone honcho Bobby Joe Rose describes as a Human Bondage Den. "It's just going to be a huge playhouse with everything connected," Rose predicts.

Some two weeks later, Rose plans to have a second site on-line, called the Alternative Music Collective, offering similar services to local and regional bands for a fee. Rose says he's already signed up Beef Masters, Planet Shock!, Smile, Clover and others.

Meanwhile, those cybersurfing Tone Zone bands are making a pretty decent mark in the real world, too. Last week, Net, a national monthly dance music magazine, showed Bamboo Crisis' "Shapeshifter" 12-inch debuting at no. 38. "Shapeshifter" -- Tone Zone's first charter -- was also distinguished as no. 4 Top Add and no. 5 Giant Step, placing it ahead, for the moment, of acts like, oh, Madonna. Fellow local dance guys The Hunger have also been on those charts for a couple of weeks with "Communication Breakdown," from last year's Grip CD.

Buy Yours Now! -- Meanwhile, Ezra Charles and the Works has what I believe is its second CD (if anybody's holding a copy of 1989's Design for Living on Boffo Records, hang on to it ... it could be worth a fortune by now). The new one's called Modern Years, released on Icarus Records, and comes advertised as the "New All-Digital Album." Charles, who's not known for being shy with his mailing list, has sent out a little pink postcard listing the album's "10 great songs" and commanding that you "order now and receive your albums [plural!] in time for Christmas!" If those key fingers ever go out, the man could sell used cars to horses. But the fingers are still in fine working order, and I'll bet the new disc will be a great-sounding fave with whoever already knows and loves Ezra's stuff, but I can't say for sure, since Mr. Charles hasn't even bothered to send me a copy, and after all I've done... Charles and the Works play, and sell CDs, at Billy Blues on Friday, December 23.

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Photogenic band-leader Jamie Darwalla, a.k.a. Jamie Jahan, has been struggling with, how shall we say it, legitimacy problems ever since the word leaked out, back in those Rice U. salad days, that the Jahan-led Toy Subs had landed a slot on the universally despised Star Search cattle call. Since then, the Subs have made more money than you and me and our collective parents combined playing the cover circuit on the Richmond Strip, but always, behind the cover-band mockery, there's been Jahan's insistence that, hey, we write our own songs, too.

The problem has been getting those songs heard in a creative atmosphere that could give a fuck about your soul, unless it's already in heavy rotation on Top 40 radio. Jahan's solution is to split the band -- presently consisting of Jahan on vocals and guitar, Alex Tittel on lead guitar and vocals, Greg Mayfield on bass and vocals and John Simmons on drums -- into separate and distinct units. Now, there's Toy Subs -- the check-collecting cover band -- and Sex Toys -- the same lineup in "an intimate acoustic setting" -- and Shed -- the same four folks playing full-bore original material. To push the idea, the band, as Shed, has recorded an eponymous four-song CD EP with Galactic Cowboys drummer Alan Doss producing, and it's floating around out there as you read. The music is slickly produced, very well played and sung, and kinda predictable in the hard rock vein. But at least it's their slickly produced, kinda predictable hard rock, and not somebody else's. Look for it at a club near you.

FYI... Lauded funk rockers Taste of Garlic has severed ties with local label Sound Virus, making it the latest in what's starting to look like a long line of bands to bail the label (Nacogdoches' Beef Masters jumped ship months ago, and tentative plans for a Sound Virus release of Linus' forthcoming debut were scrapped at the last minute). The label Taste of Garlic now calls home is Broken Note Records, run by 30footFALL guitarist Tony Avitia, who recently used the in-house avenue to release the Coolest Shit in Texas compilation of Texas punk rock. Broken Note issued a press release quoting Garlic bassist Jay Schneider on the standard "amicable split." Avitia tells me to look for a Taste of Garlic four-song EP to be released in January as prelude to a full-length CD in early March, and now I'm telling you.

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