Been Caught Stealing

(C.A.S. Productions)

I've lived in my present digs almost a year and a half now, and the upstairs neighbors have played Jane's Addiction's Nothing's Shocking at high volume at least four times a week, every week, to the exclusion of all other music, that entire time. If I didn't know better, I'd think it was local boys Crazykilledmingus up there, because Window sounds like an album made by four kids with a Jane's Addiction fetish matched only by a Stone Temple Pilots-ish need to suck every last bit of juice out of the Seattle sound. Sounds damned good, too, if white-boy mid-tempo rock is your thing. Me? Some days it'll set my white-boy mid-tempo head bobbing right along with the rest of the kids. Other days, I react the same way I would to my upstairs neighbors if I weren't cultivating a friendly attitude -- by punching angry gaping holes in the ceiling with a baseball bat.

Okay. So the word derivative has found a new poster child in Crazy. Anthony Deborde's guitar sticks to the powerful, sustained punch rhythm made infamous by Jane's babies in the upper-left-hand corner of this country's rock culture. And it's a wise thing, too, because when he steps out to solo, the results are either weak ("did you know") or shamelessly imitative of Jane's (and now Red Hot Chili Peppers) guitarist Dave Navarro. To Deborde's credit, though, the rhythm work is better than convincing, and assuming that this is the sound he's after, he's one of a very few young rock guitarists in Houston who knows how to get his desired sound out of an amplifier and onto tape.

Vocalist Allen Craig may or may not be trying for Farrell's sound, but his vox on this disk come off as a strained shadow of the weird one's wail. Bassist Rodrick Barham is as steady as you could want him to be, but when he leads into the song with a -- you guessed it -- Jane's Addiction-trademark solo bass rumble ("did you know," "back away"), you want to slap the instrument out of his hands and give him a new record collection. Drummer David Garcia matches Barham with a suitable funky rock beat without committing too many cliches (at least none that can compete with those happening at the front of the band).

Funny thing is, when you're in the mood for it (and judging by the band's live draw, there are lots of kids in this burg who are always in the mood for it), you're not going to find it much better than this. The rhythm section is as solid as a foot in a cement boot, and engineer Chris Smith has coaxed a sound out of the young band that goes beyond mere imitation and straight into the realm of competition. The songs, too, are better than competent, with the relatively inconsequential lyrics taking a back seat to the guitar's neo-arena drive.

Window doesn't last long, either. Which, depending on your tolerance for this stuff, is either a dramatic move calculated to leave the kids panting for more, or a saving grace. Eight songs (three of which appeared in slightly less polished form on an earlier five-song cassette), clocking in at just over 27 minutes. It's good music to listen to in the car when you want to support local music without sacrificing that FM-radio familiarity. Especially if you don't have far to go.

Truth be told, I'm getting just a little bit weary of Justice's habit of releasing product over the logo "Recycle paper, not music" -- especially since it seems that a good 90 percent of Justice's releases contain at least one cover tune -- but that's a mere quibble in the face of the present release: Herb Ellis's Texas Swings. Ellis, the King of the Swing Guitar and a disciple of the late great Charlie Christian, is paired here with Willie Nelson and several former Texas Playboys -- including untouchable violinist Johnny Gimble and steel picker Herb Remington -- for a classy, high-spirited romp through a collection of ten tunes, both original and standards. It's the sweetest-sounding slab of plastic my stereo has seen in a blue moon, and if you happen to have a beautiful woman in your life who's patiently trying to teach you to dance to this dying but nowhere-near-dead form, you'd best come home some night soon with this disk, a bunch of roses and a bottle of wine under your arm. It's as close to dying and going to heaven as you're likely to get on this shabby planet.

Roses from the Graveyard / The Guy Forsyth Band / Self-produced tape
Hallucination Engine / Material / Axiom
Return of the Boom Bap / KRS One / Jive
Acid Eaters / Ramones / Radioactive
Gimmick / Barkmarket / American

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Brad Tyer