Pop Moment

Okay, here's a joke: what does the Deadhead say when he runs out of weed?
Wow... this band sucks....

Now that that's out of the way, there's serious business to attend to, like the mending of fences. A couple of weeks back, when I was compiling my year-end roundup in a mood of almost overwhelming flippancy, I offered a round of "parting gifts" to local luminaries, including Sound Virus Records, to whom I half-jokingly bequeathed "a band, any band, that will stay." That little quip found print in response to a recent slew of press releases -- from bands that had at one time or another, in some way or another, been affiliated with Sound Virus -- announcing their new independence from the pungent and pugnacious indie label. What I thought I saw in that concentration of severed ties was a mass defection from a label. What I didn't foresee was the extent to which the barb would cheese off Sound Virus owner Darryl Menkin, who met with me recently to offer some words of wisdom to which, he said, I could either listen quietly, or else he'd ask me to spread my gluteals -- his very words -- so he could shove said words of wisdom deep into the place where they belonged. According to Menkin, and without going into hard-feelings-generating details, what looked from a distance like a mass defection was actually a combination of events and factors, including in some cases Sound Virus' own prerogative, leading to the dissolution of ties between the label and several bands that had at one time recorded under its auspices, including Spunk, Taste of Garlic and Beef Masters. The point being that Menkin -- who can count the production and distribution of one of Houston's first underground compilations, Infected: 12 from Texas, amongst his contributions to the local scene -- isn't looking for just any band, and feels that the implication is damaging.

And I think he's right, so this is by way of correction: Sound Virus is hanging in there quite nicely, thank you (and thankfully), and Menkin has somewhat reconceptualized his label as a place where start-up bands can work 50-50 with Menkin to develop product (my word, not his). In the meantime, forthcoming is a Sound Virus/Deep Dot Studios CD collaboration from Humungus with punk rock hero Cheetah Chrome (within a month or so), and a Sound Virus Bleachbath release (in about three). Menkin has also recently launched something called VRP Productions, in which capacity he serves as a manufacturing brokerage to local and regional acts in need of CD and graphics production capabilities. VRP handled the manufacture of Bob Gallarza's Body and Soul CD, recently written up in these pages. And in unnecessarily nice-guy fashion, Menkin's even offered to release Dixie Waste from its Sound Virus contract early so that the band may be included on the forthcoming Justice compilation Hellhole, a project specified for unsigned bands. And now, if nobody minds, I shall allow my gluteals to return to the at-rest position.

Sometimes it seems that I'm the last to know, which may be the case here, but just in case you haven't heard it already, Soulstice -- the stylish downtown loft club featuring acid jazz DJs and Sunday night big band entertainment -- closed its doors after a New Year's Eve party. The deal is this: Soulstice was piggybacking on the liquor license of the Carter and Cooley deli downstairs at 910 Prairie, and when Carter and Cooley closed shop recently, Soulstice got left in the lurch. The snazzy club's owners are exploring options to reopen in the future, but as of press time, there's nothing to report, except co-owner and DJ Andre Sampson's optimistic assertion that the acid jazz scene spawned at Soulstice isn't dead yet, and you can hear one aspect of its continuation on Sampson's new Wednesday late-night program on KPFT/90.1 FM.

Former Houston guy and present day Austin resident Alan Haynes is about to release an 11-song CD on Focus Records called Wishing Well (the title track is credited as a Don Robey tune, so who knows who the hell actually wrote it...), and to back his own bluesy vocals and guit picking, Haynes has recruited an all-star band of keyboardist Reese Wynans and the busiest rhythm section in the free world: Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon. (If you ever need a groove for your little garage band, just call Tommy and Chris. They'll play anything.) Haynes ain't the best thing the duo's ever anchored, but the trio ain't bad either, sorta like a really great house band. A convenient expert opines that Haynes' music is "great for good-natured drunks wearing tight hats," and I couldn't agree more. Haynes celebrates the new release in high style with a CD party at Rockefeller's, Saturday, January 21. Wear your boots, but don't kick anyone.

Cassette of the Week: Murrell is the name of the tape, band and artist, though if you want to keep track of such things, the featured female vocalist used to go by the name of Mignon Rae before she married guitarist Bill Murrell and consolidated names. What Mignon Murrell does is sing classic and original rhythm and blues tunes to the accompaniment of Bill's guitar, Paul English's piano and B-3, Robbie Parish's drums (sometimes Tim Solook's) and Rankin Peters' bass. Nice band, and an impressive voice that sounds like it's maybe trying a little too hard to wrap every available vocal nuance and emotive gesture into one convenient package for some talent scout somewhere to appreciate all at once. The over-the-top enthusiasm is a minor nuisance on the tape's original numbers, but the butchery with which Murrell dices the Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" and Aretha's "Dr. Feelgood" borders on the inexcusable.

Last Minute Breaking News: Um, oh yeah, the Rodeo booked a bunch of country music stars again this year. See ya there....

-- Brad Tyer

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