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Austin Weirdos The Hard Pans Know From "Mount Bullshit"

The Hard Pans do just about what their quizzical name implies. To quote Mike Stinson, "they scratch and cuss and fight and moan," hoping to get by in this crazy, confusing, mixed-up maze people call a business.

In the eternal quest for gas money and beer, they'll bring a new album, Budget Cuts, to Cactus Music Wednesday for an in-store performance prior to an evening gig at Under the Volcano.

An offshoot of Austin Music Hall of Famers the Gourds, the Pans are led by bassist Jimmy Smith and keyboard hoss Claude Bernard. If you know anything about either of these guys, you already know they'll never be forced into any kind of George Strait lookalike contest, nor will they dumb it down so the Josh Abbott fans feel safe.

Smith and Bernard augment the sound with former Gourds guitar tech Mark Creaney on lead guitar. Creaney acquits himself well on the first Hard Pans release, writing a handful of songs and handling his share of the vocal duties.

In fact, several of Creaney's songs come close to catching the old Gourds vibe, particularly "Dying Trying," which seems like an attempt to explain how a band could be around 20 years and still be looking up at hacks who pander to a mainstream audience niche.

Taking it one step further, Smith comments on the whole business of the business in his little ditty titled "Mount Bullshit."

The band is both comparable to the Gourds -- most of Smith's tunes sound like they'd fit perfectly in any Gourds set -- and a departure in that Smith, Bernard and Creaney have a serious jones for old-school pop and punk. They drop tasty covers of the Everly Brothers and Neil Young, stretching old chestnuts to give them extended, rocking workouts.

There's no gimmick here, no flashy outfits, no snappy stage jive, just some guys taking their lunch buckets and going to work, trying their best to not lose their souls and to keep Austin weird.

The Hard Pans perform at Cactus Music, 2110 Portsmouth, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and 8:30 p.m. at Under the Volcano, 2349 Bissonnet.

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