Houston Music

Infernal Bridegroom Productions

A moving tribute to Infernal Bridegroom director Jason Nodler's youth misspent in Rudyard's and other Houston saloons, Meat/BAR the play had an elegiac quality to it, a sense that a chapter of Nodler's life was over whether he liked it or not. He may not be through hanging out in bars, but he has obviously expended far too much thought on the subject to enjoy them as naively and freely as he once did. To wax overly poetic, he has eaten from the Tree of Life and no more can the taproom be his Eden.

And so the songs collected on the play's soundtrack can be seen as a farewell to youth and a remembrance of bands past. Nodler, Chris Bakos, IBP music director Anthony Barilla and a number of IBP-affiliated musicians drastically remade songs by such gone-but-not-forgotten underground luminaries as Sprawl, de Schmog, Fleshmop, the Keenlies and Horseshoe as well as material from extant bands Middlefinger, Slump, JW Americana and Carolyn Wonderland.

Overall -- and not surprising, given the subject matter -- there is a definite wee-hours feel to the album, which hits its stride four tracks in. Take the remake of Slump's "My Baby Left Me (For a Beer)," a trash-can lament growled by JW Americana's Doug Kosmo with a voice that descends from a Tom Waits rasp into seldom-reached Howlin' Wolf territory -- see if you can't imagine hearing the Chronicle hit your doorstep at the purple-gray end of a hellish night like that. Over Barilla's fat keyboards, the Chris King/Cary Winscott-led remake of JW Americana's "I Fucking Love It, Man" catches our nightcrawler on a better night, one when his head's just right and the music's tight. Elsewhere, Austinite Aimee Kendall does a chitlin-soulful star turn reprising Wonderland's early track "Dives and Divas," while the remakes of Fleshmop's "Love Bitch" and the Keenlies' "No Pain," fronted respectively by Middlefinger's Matt Kelly and Fleshmop alum Jay Maulsby, are the most instantly accessible tracks. (Why wasn't "No Pain" a hit nine years ago?) Wonderland's "No Really, I Can Drive" gets a convincing zydeco overhaul, but the Dixieland- flavored remake of Horseshoe's "Mockingbird" works less well. (Perhaps that's because I'm pretty married to the original.) Barilla contributes two compositions that bookend the album -- closer "You've Got It Good," sung by Wonderland, and opener "eventually: no tsu oH," sung by Cathy Power -- both of which reveal him to be an excellent lyricist as well as bandleader.

Songs from the Meat/BAR is as complex as the play it accompanies. If you've ever been a barfly, you know that there is as much pain as pleasure in the life, a sense of shame about all the time wasted, brain cells killed, relationships frittered and misdeeds committed in or around bars. That's all on this album. But so is the other stuff: all the reasons why so many of us fucking love it, man.