Raves and wave-offs... You may have noticed lately that local hippies are getting less passive and more pushy. Sure, Houston may not foster as definitive a shrine to self-centered '90s bohemia as, say, Austin's Ruta Maya coffeehouse -- where service is commonly rendered with a grunt and a disaffected frown -- but crunchy folks nursing decidedly un-crunchy attitudes can still be found in CD stores, restaurants, bars, festivals and coffeehouses all over this town. Perhaps you've run into a few of them; they're the ones whose loosely unraveled, earth-child appearance and overwhelming odor of patchouli oil belie their tightly wound demeanors.
Granted, it's not easy being a carefree hippie in such trying times. Let your guard down too often, and you're likely to get your peacenik ass handed to you on a nightstick. Just ask Houston's Moses Guest, a neo-hippie jam band with attitude and aspirations to spare. They can be pushy if they need to, and they know the value of hard work. The trio (currently in the process of testing out a fourth member) is fronted by Graham Guest, an aloof, somewhat cocky wandering soul who commands a surplus of "ooohs" and "aaahs" on guitar. If hair length and personal hygiene were the sole determinants of bohemian authenticity (and they're not), the close-cropped, relatively clean-cut Guest would have surely flunked his hippie physical. But it's unlikely that he pays that image stuff much mind, anyhow.
The real question is whether we should pay Guest any mind. He gives us a few reasons to take notice on Moses Guest's new debut CD, Geniality of Morality. Though the disc has its share of half-baked southern boogie moments, alongside slight-grooved jams that lead nowhere, Guest's vocals convey a god's honest tension and unaffected soulfulness (think Alice in Chains's Layne Staley by way of Hootie's Darius Rucker) that's often quite moving. And he flashes a few memorable hooks, giving me call to think that there is something a little more to Moses Guest than its baby-H.O.R.D.E.-band persuasions let on.
Guest would have been smarter, however, to mumble his way through the lyrics on Geniality of Morality, which range from simply juvenile ("The velvet whispers of your eyes are like a gentle kiss") to overwrought ("I sat in a room carving my own tombstone") to outright incoherent ("Sharing your cup with me even in light of my lobotomy when I was chicken-tied"). Still, the handful of bright spots on Geniality indicate that Moses Guest might want to hold off on carving its tombstone just yet. The band will ring in the release of its CD November 23 at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar.
Brevity and frivolity have always been Bickley's strong suits. And on the new Pogo Au Go-Go, Houston's juvenile speed-core delinquents have added a teeny-weeny element of, dare we say, song-craft and production value to their absurd outline for world domination. Recorded by Dan Workman at Sugar Hill studios, this raucous 16-song locker-room lark rouses as many guilty belly laughs as your typical Benny Hill episode, and clocking in at just more than 27 minutes, it flies by even more quickly. Stupid, silly, slight and tasteless, Pogo is downright boffo.
Humor -- and, for that matter, irony -- is in short supply on the mean-spirited new release from local thrash-rap gloom-mongers Dinosaur Salad. China Town 77003 is a numbing affair, littered with foul-mouthed threats, blood-curdling screams and abrupt changes in momentum that serve little purpose but to imply structural sophistication where none exists. Brandishing its droning power chords and a densely layered sonic assault like a sort of blunt instrument of terror, Dinosaur Salad is trying its damnedest here to shock us into submitting to its idea of harsh realism. But if this is what reality sounds like, I'll take fantasy any day.
Roughly accurate... The Rough Guide to Rock couldn't be a more fitting title for this latest and quirkiest addition to your local book store's music reference section. Its creator, Rough Guides -- a company known for its hip, highly opinionated travel manuals as well as guides to jazz and world music -- has marshaled a fat selection of more than 5,000 entries and CD recommendations for its first foray into rock criticism, many by writers who've never been published.
As you might surmise, the quality of the prose and the accuracy of the information fluctuates. Mistakes run the gamut, from relatively minor (Augie Meyers is misspelled "Augie Meyer" in the Sir Douglas Quintet entry) to inexcusably major (Luscious Jackson is credited with recording a few Beastie Boys releases). But even with the holes, Rough Guide to Rock is refreshing and innovative, viewing music from a fan's, rather than a journalist's, perspective and devoting generous space to even the most obscure artists. Sometimes, though, the space allotments are definitely too generous -- is a separate full-column entry really required to cover David Lee Roth's aborted solo career?
But so what if the Rough Guide to Rock's facts may be a little out of whack and its selections not always the most logical? If you're searching out so-called "expert" analyses, consult Rolling Stone's guide, or better yet, the one by Trouser Press. But if you're looking for a swell launching point for coffee-table discussion and debate, go with the Rough Guide. That's really all its publishers were after anyway.
-- Hobart Rowland
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