No less an authority than Ray Wylie Hubbard has pronounced the Thirteenth Floor Elevators the coolest band ever. Recently there has been renewed interest in Tommy Hall, the enigmatic University of Texas philosophy student credited with conceptualizing and founding the band. In a recent Austin Chronicle interview, Hall denied any further interest in the band or its music and detailed his continuing exploratory study of the human psyche and mind expansion, which includes regular weekly dosages of LSD. Back in the band's heyday (1965-67), Hall was asked how often he took acid, and he flippantly replied with the old Dr Pepper slogan, "At 10, 2 and 4." Hence the name of Fred Mitchim's spot-on Elevators cover band, Tommy Hall Schedule.
Mitchim is a former Clear Lake resident now living in Austin who maintains ties to many of the legendary Texas trip-rockers from back in the day. In addition to his Tommy Hall Schedule project, Mitchim has put out several albums of futuristic "space music" and has written several film scores. In a recent look back at the Elevators' album Easter Everywhere, Mitchim described the music as "a collection of poems put perfectly to music and sung in such a way as to create a sort of musical astral plane where all things come into perspective."
Take Mitchim's authentic re-creations of some of Texas's most hallowed music, and mix in a couple of pints of Wrecks Bell's litigation-inspiring Star Bock beer and Craig Malek's captivating light show. The result, no doubt, will be some form of levitation taking place on Monkey Island, baby, right here in the middle of the zoo. -- William Michael Smith
Saturday, October 2, at the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe, 413 20th, Galveston, 409-762-9199.
The Melvins, with Trio Convulsant
The Melvins, with Trio Convulsant
Summing up the Melvins' contribution to rock and roll is a fool's errand at best. While the band introduced the world to a slow-plodding sludge later marketed as grunge, the sound's early pioneers moved from Washington to San Francisco well before the megahype hit the fan.
Former Melvins roadie Kurt Cobain once pined for a role in the outfit and sang its praises after achieving sainthood himself. But his friend and mentor Roger "Buzz" Osborne, along with mainstay drummer Dale Crover (one of Nirvana's many timekeepers), gave marketing execs migraines from day one. The Melvins spoofed KISS solo albums; they offered cockeyed covers of Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with help from fallen teen idol Leif Garrett; and they burned bridges by releasing Prick, an unlistenable monstrosity that made Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music sound tuneful.
But for all that experimental aggression, the Melvins (whose revolving roster of bassists includes Shirley Temple's punk-rock daughter, Lorax, Osborne's former paramour) endured two decades of being unfairly tagged as Black Sabbath clones. Perhaps Ira Robbins of Trouser Press gave us the best working definition of them: "Oppressive in the best possible sense, the Melvins produce richly sensual, stunningly ugly music that gives the feeling of being crushed by a friendly fat guy tripping his brains out." -- John La Briola
Tuesday, October 5, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.
Damn! Things must be pretty boring for teenagers in Sweden. It seems that the only things they can do for fun these days are grow sugar beets (a primary crop: thank you, Universal Almanac) and start rock bands. The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Nicolai Dunger, Sahara Hotnights and -- most famous -- the Hives all have sprung from the cold country's frosty sod, making rock the country's second most fervent religion behind evangelical Lutheranism (thanks again, Almanac).
Of course, Sahara Hotnights is the only one comprising four smokin' hotties who fuse punk, rock and bubblegum pop, teetering on the edge between the Go-Gos and grrrl power. Front woman Maria Andersson, drummer Josephine Forsman and sisters Jennie and Johanna Asplund (guitar and bass, respectively) have been best pals since childhood in the town of Umea (not a "major city," according to Almanac). Though they made their debut in 1997 with an EP, it wasn't until a 2002 U.S. rerelease of their second full-length, Jennie Bomb, that worldwide audiences took notice, setting the stage for the just-out-of-the-box Kiss & Tell.
Full of punky, spunky rippers such as "Who Do You Dance For?" "Empty Heart," "Hot Night Crash" and "Stupid Tricks," Kiss & Tell has the Hotnights serving up three-minute blasts of primal estrogen energy. And though Andersson's vocal pitch is more sing-songy and cotton candy than the tough chick growl some of the material requires, she and Forsman (who co-wrote all the songs) have a solid grasp of their genre. How much they can grow beyond it remains to be seen. Note: Please be impressed that the above review does not mention the Runaways or Suzi Quatro once. Until now, that is. -- Bob Ruggiero
Wednesday, October 6, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.
The Starlight Mints and 8Track Charade, with the Baptist Generals
There has to be a place for the Starlight Mints. How many other bands will make "If you pull me apart, don't swallow my heart" (from "Submarine No. 3") the catchiest line you've heard in more than two weeks?
A five-piece outfit led by singer-guitarist Alan Vest, the Mints hail from Oklahoma, just like the Flaming Lips. If life were fair, the comparisons would end there, but anyone who's seen the Master P episode of Cribs knows life isn't fair. The Mints have even taken some heat -- in this publication, no less -- for touring with the very band from which they seek separation.
It's a shame, because the band's string-arrangement indulgences and unconventional chord changes actually owe as much to Belle and Sebastian as to anyone else, and Vest's vocal inflections are those of a lifelong Frank Black worshiper. They seem to idly pick up and put down several styles, often within the same song, before ultimately settling on a stilted, swaggering, '60s-era pop best exemplified in "The Twilight Showdown" and "Black Cat." Close your eyes and you can see a pack of mod swingers getting groovy during the intervals of Laugh-In or Get Smart.
8Track Charade, on the other hand, sounds like something that Hyde would turn the gang on to during a smoke break on That '70s Show. Plentiful electric pianos, courtesy of front man Gilbert Alfaro, create something of a Supertramp vibe in places, while elsewhere their Spanish-tinged psychedelic pop sounds something like Pink Floyd or Super Furry Animals with a trumpet player who escaped from the orchestra at a Madrid bullfight. A few of these guys -- and a lot of the material on their new, self-titled EP -- came from the late, lamented local band Spain Colored Orange, and that name is just as evocative of their sound as the new one, but for different reasons. At any rate, the stuff is catchy as hell -- a couple of weeks ago I listened to their EP before going to see Franz Ferdinand at the Verizon, and when I woke up the next day, it was the 8Track Charade's "Persistent Intermission" that was rattling around my rock-addled brain, not FF's "Tell Her Tonight." A great band and a perfect match for the Mints. -- Taylor Upchurch and John Nova Lomax
Thursday, September 30, at Mary Jane's Fat Cat, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.
Moving Units, with Kill Me Tomorrow and Chinese Stars
L.A.'s Moving Units never set out to lead a dance-punk revolution. Although they're often lumped in with like-minded bands from New York, such as the Rapture and Radio 4 -- and although they still can't shake the obvious comparisons to postpunk legends like Gang of Four and Television -- they claim they weren't consciously joining in the zeitgeist. Instead, the trio's focus has always been the frenzy on the dance floor. Front man Blake Miller's jagged guitar melodies skip across Johan Boegli's deep, funky bass lines and Chris Hathwell's irresistible disco drums, stirring up a lusty, rhythmic urgency that doesn't let up until the encore's over. Following their self-released 2001 EP with a debut full-length, Dangerous Dreams, due out in October, Moving Units live up to their name with a dizzying set of songs that demand nothing less than a no-holds-barred dance party. When they're performed live, that's exactly what fans can expect. -- Michele Laudig
Friday, October 1, at Mary Jane's Fat Cat, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.