The Lame and the Great

It seems to be that time of year again, when nobody's playing, and nobody's touring and the music editor is trying his damnedest to squeeze out some blob of easy copy early so he can grab a few extra days over Christmas at the grandparents' house, where he'll futilely try to convince them that, yes, "music editor" is a real job.

It's a time for year-end countdowns and best-ofs and other assorted journalistic cutesies. I list what I remember of the best, worst and notable of the year and offer comment so that you can read it on the toilet or at Schlotzsky's, wherever, and nod in knowing agreement, rage in bitter dispute or fall asleep in disinterest.

Happy winter.

Top 23 CDs of 1994

Upcoming Events

Beastie Boys
Ill Communication / Grand Royal

Lisa Germano
Geek the Girl / 4AD

Pete Droge
Necktie Second / American

Alison Krauss and the Cox Family
I Know Who Holds Tomorrow / Rounder

Sir Mix-a-Lot
Chief Boot Knocka / American

Iris DeMent
My Life / Warner Brothers

Michael Petak
Pretty Little Lonely / Slash

Buddy Guy
Slippin' In / Silvertone

Liz Phair
Whip-Smart / Matador

Live Through This / DGC

Jack Logan
Bulk / Medium Cool

Soul Coughing
Ruby Vroom / Slash

Unplugged in New York / DGC

Cotton Mather
Cotton is King / Elm

Vince Bell
Phoenix / Watermelon1/4

K. McCarty
Dead Dog's Eyeball: Songs of Daniel Johnston Bar/None

Johnny Cash
American Recordings / American

Ted Hawkins
The Next Hundred Years / DGC

Guided by Voices
Bee Thousand / Matador

Moe Tucker
Dogs Under Stress / Sky Records

Maleem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharoah Sanders
The Trance of Seven Colors / Axiom

The Jesus Lizard
Down / Touch and Go

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain / Matador

Ten Singles Worth Cranking the Radio For...

Tom Petty
"Mary Jane's Last Dance" --
Out-Dylans Dylan, or close enough.

The Offspring
"Self-Esteem" -- Better than "Lola."

Salt n Pepa and En Vogue
"What a Man" -- Sassy, sassy and
more sassy.

Mazzy Star
"Fade Into You" -- Mmmm...

Meat Puppets
"Backwater" -- Guiltless Skynard.

Beastie Boys
"Sabotage" -- "Saturday Night's Alright for Fightin'" for the Lollapalooza crowd.

The Flaming Lips
"She Don't Use Jelly" -- The most beautifully unexpected thing I've ever heard on FM radio.

"Loser" -- Freshest thing on the radio in years.

Nine Inch Nails
"Animal" -- Bold and disturbing.

Thirteen Singles Not Worth
Spitting On...

Nine Inch Nails
"Animal" -- Disturbing and tiresome.

"Loser" -- Got old fast.

Green Day
"Basket Case" -- Awfully catchy, but the words suck.

"What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" -- Nothing ickier than R.E.M. slumming.

The Murmurs
"You Suck" -- No, dear, I didn't put any dust on your guitar, though I wish you'd put it in a closet.

Sheryl Crow
"Santa Monica Boulevard" -- A friend says she's pretty sure the sun can't come up over Santa Monica Boulevard, that it runs the wrong way, and I hate the song enough to take her word for it.

The Cranberries
"Zombie" -- Season's open, and creatures who make that sound are begging for buckshot.

Henry Rollins
"Liar" -- Smug, stupid and boring.

Collective Soul
"Shine" -- Enemas should be practiced in private.

Gin Blossoms
"Hey Jealousy" -- Didn't I slag this last year in this space? Why am I still hearing it?

Urge Overkill
"Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon" -- Only proves that Neil Diamond is cooler than his flatterers, which isn't much of a point.

Blind Melon
"No Rain" -- Wussy crap somewhere between Supertramp and Yes, which is hell.

Anything by Candlebox
I listen to all the Toy Subs I want, right here in town.

Top 12 Local CDs

de Schmog
Kiddie Wonderland / Disclexington

Odd Squad
Fadanuf Fa Erybody / Rap-a-Lot

The Last Wish
The First of February / Royal Blue Productions

Joe LoCascio Trio
Silent Motion / Tafford

Exhibit A / Pulse Productions

dead horse
Feed Me / DHO

A Handbook for Young Scientists/farrago

Rocky Hill
Midnight Creepers/Collectables

The Mike Gunn
Almaron/Double Naught

The Diary/Rap-a-Lot

Manhole/Direct Hit

Dave Catney
Reality Road/Justice

15 Concerts That Made It All Worthwhile

Nine Inch Nails at The Summit

The Rolling Stones at the Astrodome

Alison Krauss at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge

The Missiles farewell show at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge

Linus at Rudyard's

Pharoah Sanders at Miller Outdoor Theatre

George Porter Jr. at the Big Easy  

The Harry Sheppard Band at the Houston Press Music Awards

Alejandro Escovedo at McGonigel's Mucky Duck

Storyville at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge

Stomp at the Wortham Center

Frank Sinatra at Jones Hall

Sincola and the Wannnabes at Fitzgerald's

Ted Hawkins at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge

Keenlies at Rudyard's

One Song That Made It All Worthwhile
Linus' "Linus Theme," with its repetitive sludgerock riff and choked vocal refrain -- "We are not Black Sabbath" -- encapsulates all that is good and true in Houston music, and still manages to be absurd in all the right ways. If this thing wasn't born to be a vinyl 7-inch, nothing ever was. If only the band would release it.

Worst Blows to Local Musical Culture
The untimely deaths of pianist and jazz catalyst Dave Catney, and SumArts president Lanny Steele.

Best Thing to Happen to Local Musical Culture
One-time Austin honky-tonker Mary Cutrufello's move to Houston.

Most Irrelevant Thing to Happen to Local Musical Culture
Onetime local label Sector II's move to Austin.

Real Life Rock and Roll Top Six
1. Goat's Head Soup blew up one night, providing fireworks for all lower Westheimer. Word quickly spread that arson was to blame, and short weeks later an owner/investor was arrested for torching his own nightclub, providing one of the dumbest pseudo mob scenarios to hit Houston's music scene in recent memory. Booking puppet-master Pace found a new home at the Urban Art Bar, and life goes on.

2. Longtime Houston Chronicle rock critic Marty Racine quit his music-writing gig, perhaps in response to his advancing (in rock crit terms) age -- a quality noted last year in this same space with the announcement of Marty's Heights Area Lawn of the Month victory. Since then, he's popped up writing about snake handlers and displaced country folk, and when certain rock shows come through town, the Chron pulls him out of retirement to pitch in his two-cents worth, as when he noted in a review of Crosby, Stills and Nash that "Love the One You're With" might have been the worst piece of advice the hippies ever got. More or less gone, but not forgotten.

3. Backstage at this year's Houston Press Music Awards, in a moment of fear that the proceedings had grown boring, I asked members of the Odd Squad, who were about to go on-stage, to, you know, liven things up a little. They did. Walked onto the stage, did their thing, sparked at least six fat joints, puffed some and tossed some into the front rows. HPD officer and public relations dreamboy Ken Weiner considerately turned his back to the proceedings, and my KLOL cohost rushed into action, fairly screaming that, ohmigod, somebody's got to stop them. Nobody did, and a bunch of people got a free stoning at the Music Awards, which I thought was pretty great.

4. Nine Inch Nails played at The Summit with the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow and Marilyn Manson. When NIN frontman Trent Reznor finally hit the stage after a Halloween night buildup of suspense, hundreds of angsty kids dressed like Brandon Lee's Crow rushed the flimsy barricades and flowed onto the floor. The mass-scale stage rush is a noble but dying tradition, and for a moment, it made me believe all over again.

5. Pink Floyd came to Rice Stadium for a rare appearance, giving me the opportunity to write what amounted to a personal essay about my own sick relationship with that band's music. Little did I expect that guitarist and frontman by default David Gilmour would read the article, take personal offense and instruct his tour publicist to contact me and ask for my impressions after the show. Luckily for me, forces conspired to make the show a success, but Gilmour's sensitivity struck me as touching. And just about what you'd expect from a man who had to employ professional lyrical assistance to write a song about his own inability to communicate.

6. Kurt Cobain capped himself with a 12-gauge, sparking a million tributes of varying quality and cementing Nirvana's place in the mass-cult rock pantheon. MTV continues to show Nirvana's "In Bloom" video, in which Cobain insists that he does not have a gun, while a pistol revolves in space. Every person with even a shred of humanity swallows a painful lump in his throat.

Parting Gifts
For Sector II Records -- A band with a chance in hell.
For Sound Virus Records -- A band, any band, that will stay.
For Justice Records -- Street cred.
For Axiom/Catal HYyYk/Harvey's -- An nth chance.
For the refurbished dead horse -- Staying power.
For Banana Blender Surprise -- A collective haircut.  

For the Houston Blues Society (and the whole city, for that matter) -- A statue of Lightnin' Hopkins in the Third Ward.

For KRQE, Rocket Radio -- Something to play during the day that's half as entertaining as Love Phones at night.

For the Houston Music Council -- Something to do.
For all Houston music venues -- A sense of adventure.
For all Houston bands -- More places to play, and more people to listen.
For Courtney Love -- Evan Dando.
For Billy Corgan -- A swift kick in the ass.

For anyone with taste -- A membership in the Society to Eradicate Sheryl Crow.

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