Houston Music


Though Denton likes to believe it was the home of Texas's best psych rock in the 1990s, that title actually goes to Houston's the Mike Gunn. This early-'90s quintet brazenly brandished a guitar indulgence that warped more minds in the Lone Star State and beyond since the six-oh days of Josefus, the 13th Floor Elevators, the Moving Sidewalks and the Outcasts. (If you're not convinced, check out 1991's Hemp for Victory and be converted.) The Mike Gunn also spawned some of the state's best-kept secrets. Guitarist Tom Carter went on to craft hauntingly beautiful music with his wife, Christina, as Charalambides. John Cramer is still rolling with Project Grimm. And bassist Scott Grimm is recording solo at home as Dunlavy, or the DunLavy.

For his fifth album, The Alison Effect, Grimm is joined by Cramer, and the two will send you reaching for the bong -- or dusting off those Amon Düül reissues that you haven't listened to since 1996. Kicking things off is an 18-minute odyssey, "Woe Be to Croton," an intricate lattice of guitar, keyboards and percussion that casually runs through variations of its central motif without becoming tedious. Some crafty slide-guitar work, organ drones and vocal chants punctuate breaks as the duo carefully builds to some fuzzy guitar pyrotechnics that recall the impossibly stoned wanking preached by Wayne Rogers in his bands Magic Hour, Major Stars and Crystallized Movements.

Not that Alison is all paisleys and lava lamps. "Sassy" rides a discombobulating bass line into Valentines for Matahari-era Sun City Girls' Eastern vocal mischief. "Rob Walks In" chugs along a pounding pulse that's peppered with Cramer's vocals and yet more fiery guitar work. And "Better Than Sleep" is a moody, country-psych excursion that recalls Red Red Meat's finer moments -- only with more guitar hypnosis.

Admittedly, a good deal of modern psych gets dismissed as old-guy Ptolemaic Terrascope noodling. But when a musician as solid as Grimm is this obscure in his home state, it leaves you wondering when fans of the layered, epic movements of acts with more hipster cred like Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Mogwai and (gasp) Radiohead are going to look for the homegrown crop of the real deal.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bret McCabe