Vinyl & Compilations
It seems like the last thing local guitar-type bands or musicians want to do these days is release a full-length CD. So far this year, the lion's share of notable Houston indie and punk releases has come on either vinyl LP (Born Liars' Ragged Island), EPs (Wild Moccasins, Benjamin Wesley, McKenzies), 7-inch singles (NO TALK), even cassettes (Muhamad Ali, Cop Warmth).
There's been so many we even had to split the "Best Local CD" Houston Press Music Award category of years past into two this year: Best CD/LP and Best EP/7-inch. If we had thought of it in time, we would have put "Best Cassette" in there too, and if it keeps up probably will next year. (Reminder: Nomination ballots, page 55 in this issue and online at www.houstonpress.com, are due at 9 a.m. this Monday, May 18.)
Another alternative to the full-length CD is back with a vengeance as well: the compilation. Saturday, several bands (see below) will assemble at the Mink to mark the release of ArtStorm Records' Summer Exposure compilation. Released earlier this year were Soda Pop Sounds' Starfruit, Esotype Records and Mia Kat Empire's Human Party Virus 2009 and KTRU Live vol. 1, 18 tracks recorded live on the Rice Radio airwaves.
Compilations boast several advantages over full-length single-artist CDs. Obviously, it's a lot easier and cheaper, and much less time-consuming, to record one or two songs than 10 or 12. Manufacturing costs can be split between the bands or handled outright by the producers. Compilations also allow artists to pool their audiences, as it were, and are thus much more likely to land on unfamiliar ears.
"Part of what makes a compilation a great opportunity is that you're exposing your music to fans of other bands on the CD," says Buxton bassist Chris Wise, who adds it cost the band $100 to record its two Summer Exposure songs versus $2,100 for the 7-inch it will release later this summer. "We really just wanted to have songs that are catchy and not necessarily so heavy on theme."
Local compilations also act as musical time capsules, preserving specific moments along a scene's timeline for posterity. Summer Exposure, Starfruit, Human Party Virus and KTRU Live all show how prominent neo-folk, indie-pop and acoustic/electric solo performers have become, while complex instrumental rock, belligerent punk and spacey psychedelic noise — all longtime Houston musical touchstones — continue to endure.
Perhaps the best example of this from recent years is Mustache Records' 2004 disc I Hate It Here, I Never Want to Leave, assembled by Jonx drummer and sometime Houston Press contributor Daniel Mee. With mostly bitter, punk-flavored psychedelia (and vice versa) from Fatal Flying Guilloteens, the Slurpees, the Kants, Dead Roses, Swarm of Angels and Torches of Fury, capped off by God's Temple of Family Deliverance's 15-minute armageddon jam "You Are the Shining Star of His Existence," I Hate It Here is an excellent example of the impact one well-conceived and well-executed compilation can have.
"My first real exposure to the Houston scene was I Hate It Here," says Ian Wells, who hosts KTRU's The Local Show, put together KTRU Live, vol. 1 and plans another volume soon.
"It sort of started me on this trail," he adds. "Like here are ten bands, and you see this band became this band, and their guitarist left to be in this band, and after awhile you're looking at 30 bands and they're all playing this week — and then all of a sudden you feel like you're on top of this enormous scene that's been around you the whole time."
"I remember when I Hate It Here came out and man, to me, those were the golden days of Houston," says Dead City Sound's Chris Ryan, who recorded most of that album. "I was wondering if the younger kids who put out this new one feel the same way as I did back then."
If we are entering another golden age of local music — and many scene-watchers believe we are — it's nothing Houston hasn't seen before. Here's a brief sampling of some past Bayou City comps that likewise encapsulated their eras; thanks to Daniel Mee, Jay Crossley and Rosa Guerrero for their assistance.
Album: Astro-Worldbeat: Songs from Static House
Artists: Zipperneck, Arthur Yoria, Japanic, Horseshoe, DuneTX, Dead Roses, Chickenhawk, Enron Field
Notes: Ten tracks of Texas rock of varying degrees of heaviness, spanning the late '90s to about 2005 and recorded by Jamie Sralla at his two Static House locations. Includes one of Japanic's final recordings, "West Alabama," and late Texas punk legend Randy "Biscuit" Turner of the Big Boys jamming with I Hate It Here alumni the Slurpees on "Couldn't Believe It."
Album: Gulf Coast Massacre
Artists: Sick Abuse, Knuckle Scraper, Pretty Little Flower, Race Against Time, Kruller, Janitor, Insect Warfare
Notes: A grindcore lover's delight, GCM pits the above Houston sickboys against the likes of Lafayette's Killswitch, Tampa's Bad Eating Habits and New Orleans's the Pallbearers in an all-out war for Third Coast sludge supremacy.
Album: I Hate It Here, I Never Want to Leave
Artists: See above
Notes: From Scott Faingold's review in the Press: "The 12 heavily distorted local bands populating this compilation are certainly unafraid to sling the feedback or shred their throats with outbursts of raw rage, and what the disc might lack in variety it makes up for in full-tilt aggression." At last count, eight of the 44 musicians on I Hate It Here had in fact left town.
Artists: Sad Pygmy, Violent Blue, the Jinkies, Man or God, de Schmog, the Keenlies
Notes: Justice Records' would-be alt-rock scene sampler is probably the most snakebit compilation in local music history. Producer Randall Jamail took a lot of local heat for the way he went about selecting the bands, then when Hellhole actually came out, things really got ugly. "The majority of the songs don't quite sound right; more often than not, they sound flat and unaffected," wrote the Press's Joe Hon. "Some of the bands just plain suck to begin with."
Album: Drilling the Curve
Artists: The Mike Gunn, Rusted Shut, Dry Nod, Charalambides, Sad Pygmy, Dave Dove Paul Duo
Notes: About as demented as Texas psych-rock gets, touching on everything from metal to jazz and featuring several artists who set the benchmark for the I Hate It Here sound.
Albums: Houston Loud/The Axiom vol. 1
Year: late 1980s
Artists: Sugar Shack, Blind Ignorants, da Plug Uglies, Non Dairy Creamers, Ms. Carriage and the Casual Tease, Pain Teens, Bayou Pigs, Dresden 45, Grindin Teeth Dead Horse, 400 Blows, Toho Ehio, Cinco Dudes, Party Owls, Sprawl, Monster Zero, Van Goghs, FSU
Notes: Two LPs worth seeking out from the glory days of the Axiom, the legendary McKinney venue where any style was welcome, the louder the better.
Album: Epitaph for a Legend
Artists: 13th Floor Elevators, Red Krayola, Thursday's Children, the Spades, Big Walter, Lightnin' Hopkins
Notes: The last gasp of storied '60s Houston label International Artist Records, Epitaph cleaned out the IA vaults with two LPs of classic psych, '60s pop and vintage Texas blues. Re-released in 1993 and 2003, and several tracks appear on last year's Never Ever Land anthology. CHRIS GRAY
The Summer Exposure release party, with Roky Moon & BOLT, Listenlisten, News on the March, Mathletes, Elaine Greer, the Brood, Alpaca, Giant Princess and Buxton, is 8 p.m. Saturday, May 16, at the Backroom at the Mink, 3718 Main, 713-522-9985 or www.minkonmain.com.
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