Train in Vain
Good Enough For You
Train in Vain's a Beaumont-based outfit with the standard guitars-bass-drums rock lineup, and the band plays a melodic sort of hard rock spiced with feedbacking guitars, power chords and the occasional harmony vocal. It's a sound with some similarities to Washington's Screaming Trees, but not so much that you'd call it a copycat duplicate -- just think of the Trees as a reference point.
T'ain't nothin' happening here you haven't heard before, but since Candlebox now passes as new music, I suppose no one's really looking for anything new, and of its type, Train in Vain is pretty pleasant. One complaint though: two or three songs in, I started to wish that the vocalist (band members are listed, but not identified by role) would stop singing so damned hard and let the riffs carry the song every now and then. Vocals seem to operate in one mode -- raspy overdrive -- and it's not until the eighth of nine cuts, "My Light," that singing boy relaxes a bit and lets the song find some balance. When he does, though, the results are promising.
Train in Vain plays Friday, December 23 at Emo's. Call 523-8503 for info.
Buddha on the Moon
The very first time I heard of Buddha, the music was accompanied by the news that the band was no more, kaput, maybe reorganizing, probably gone for good. It bummed me out, because Buddha, which seems to comprise various people at various times, but is anchored by farrago cofounder HK, makes a mellow, wavering dream pop spiked with rumbling, distorted guitar chords and vocals best described as calming. If this band does in fact have a real live frontman, all it would need is a Super-8 camera, some scratchy film stock and lots of colored lights to make itself right at home on MTV.
And maybe you'll see it yet, because even if Buddha's dead, HK is still kicking out product. This time, it's a 10-inch slab of vinyl carrying four songs, including a re-recording of Buddha's own "On the Beach," originally from the farrago Alles ist Gut 7-inch, and a cover of the Magnetic Fields' college radio staple "100,000 Fireflies." The artwork, as I've come to expect from farrago, is lovely and totally unhelpful about matters like which songs are on which side, but the aforementioned tunes and two new ones, "Color of the Sky" and "When You Smile," make for a shimmering musical package nonetheless. True, this stuff is arty to the bone, but with so few Houston bands using anything but sheer muscle to get their points across, the Quaalude-paced introspection on display here is a welcome reprieve. I've got precious little hope of seeing this studio band live, and that's a shame, because it's one of my local faves.
-- Brad Tyer
I still haven't figured out exactly what the "alternative pop" tag currently being bandied about is laboring to distinguish itself from, except that it's a tip-off that the guitars aren't distorted, the singers actually sing and the songs are arranged to favor melody and atmosphere over visceral punch. It also means, I suppose, that the described music is headed for the playlist at one or more of the relatively new Adult Alternative stations popping up around the country to take advantage of boomer melancholy.
Fabu's debut disc fits the bill nicely, and the Austin-based six-piece, built around the core of David Hemmeline, Amy Atchley and Pam Miller -- the last two being from Houston -- brings enough imagination and simple skill to the effort to place the band in good adult-rock company with apparent influences such as the Indigo Girls, with a bit of XTC's quirk and Enya's sleepy wail thrown in for good measure.
Instrumentally, most of Naivete's tunes are built around simple acoustic guitar progressions and then jazzed up with percussion, soaring vocal harmonies and sparing saxophone work. It's a delicate blend without being precious, and when it peaks with a touch of funk attitude, as it does on songs such as "Road Home," "Trouble" and "Rest Assured," you can understand why the labels are climbing all over themselves trying to get a signature from these folks.
-- Brad Tyer
Fabu plays Thursday, December 22 at McGonigel's Mucky Duck. Call 528-5999 for info.
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Doing What I Do Worst
Sandin is the bass player for the local Walk-Ins, and instead of waiting for that band to get famous, develop alcohol problems and disintegrate into solo camps, a la the Replacements, Sandin's jumped the gun and released his very own solo disc, packed with 12 originals and a telling cover of Cheap Trick's "It's Up to You."
The style is American pub rock, reminiscent of former fellow locals the Solid Goldsteins, and through them, those ever-influential 'Mats. In keeping with the genre's self-deprecating tendencies, the title track is probably the catchiest thing on the disc, though the songwriting is pretty solid, if not terribly distinguished, throughout. Instrumentally, too much of the disc sounds half-baked, as if it were recorded on a shoestring over too many disconnected sessions, which, of course, it was. Liner notes place the project's total cost at $702.84. And appropriately enough, the disc is selling at local independent record stores for $5.99. Sounds like a bargain.
-- Brad Tyer