Houston Music

Rock May Be Dead, But It Sure Makes a Good-Looking Corpse


Let me begin with a digression that is neither hot nor trashy.

I used to be in a band that began our show with this sample from the Toxic Avenger: “You said you were going to take me to the David Bowie concert, he’s not David Bowie.”

Heroes are supposed to die, eventually, to clear the way for the little people. The deaths of most public figures usually seem abstract, even inevitable, like the outcomes of sports games or like climate change. Lemmy’s death was bad enough, and he’d been fighting his pain in public for months. The news of David Bowie’s death to cancer comes out of nowhere and hit me right between the rolls. The past couple days I’ve been like someone with a mild flu. My eyes stare without focus. I refused most chocolate.

For a long time, David Bowie had us close to his lips. It seemed like he almost had it in him to remake the world in his image: a sly palace with room enough for flamboyancy, pathos, alien wit and charm. He was totally committed to the changing lines in the hexagram, and he made a point of not looking back. There’s nothing that will stop the incoming flood of shitty local tributes and even shittier celebrity memorials, and surely Bono and other, lesser turds of his ilk will slither into as many of these as possible, but you don’t have to watch. In honor of the Thin White Duke, consider getting a lightning bolt tattooed across your face or joining a funky mime troupe.

For most people, music is just one more thing that goes down easy with a beer and a burger. If you’re such a music fan, there’s always something going on. If you’re more prone to not-music, then this week is slow and perhaps well-suited for elaborate shows of mourning. But next Tuesday, the short sleep between winter and summer will be interrupted by some itchy third-eye music from Cleveland.

X_X started and finished abruptly in 1979 as the slightly more-musical successor to founder John D. Morton’s slightly better-known pre-punk band Die Electric Eels. X_X injected a tinny mix of Captain Beefheart and Albert Ayler into their rust-belt misanthropy. They are out on a rare tour making a likely once-in-a-lifetime Houston stop supporting a recent reissue on Souljazz.

Then as now, but much moreso then, to be a band from Cleveland conveyed an esprit de corps redolent of self-sabotage, a withering propensity to trash talk, and a endless attraction to working out the contours between music, volume and not-music. The mistake on the lake is a music town; there’s not much else to do there beside watch the sports teams let you down year after year and drink yourself to death. It’s a lot like Houston, except less self-satisfied, more desperate. And more intellectually keen, and subject to bitter cold, and full of city parks. 

Lamont Thomas of Obnox is on the record saying: “Good rock’n’roll is like bigfoot, you hear about it but you rarely see it.”  Maybe the claim is optimistic, but Obnox is out there doing it, constantly touring and recording. Obnox has made more records than the rest of us, counted together, and they’re good. Consider the modes. In one mode he croons sardonically over big-muff rock, in another he makes a funky clatter that brings back to some of the hissy, genre-freaking energy and loose hybridizations of the Grand Royal records era of American music.

This show is at Walters next Tuesday, January 19. Also on the bill are local scuzz-tone Motorhead enthusiasts the Snooty Garbagemen and Poizon, the new mystery goose from what was Weird Party.

Free Tips For Motorists:
Use your turn signals, practice the zipper-merge technique, perhaps it’d be better to stay at home (you have a bigger tv there, after all).


January 22: Etched in the Eye, Damon Smith, Ak’Chamel at Khon’s.

January 29: Hive Mind, Oil Thief, Gerritt + Domokos, Peiiste, Bad Bones, Record Money at Notsuoh.

February 1: Swinging Chandeliers, Illicit Relationship at Avant Garden, as the They Who Sound series resumes.

February 13: Consumer Electronics, Gerritt Wittmer at Notsuoh.

Rock Always Comes Back, Sorry

I’ve been waiting for years to see the death of rock. I read about it twice in the music section of this paper in the past week alone. Whenever I hear that rock is dead I act like someone who’s been put in an embarrassing hypnotic trance: my mouth waters, my ears wiggle, and I cluck like a chicken. But I’m gonna tell you that like the dead in Pet Sematary, like the McRib, like Guns N’ Roses, rock always comes back, however addled. It’ll come back as a pop-up ad on your computer, or as a particularly galling pair of trucknuts, or even as a feature-length movie starring a spatula and a counting horse, but it’ll come back. You’ll be on vacation in a quiet little cantina in Austin, so peaceful that you might as well be in Mexico, when all of a sudden the place begins to fill up with musicians (you know they’re musicians by their ponytails, soul patches, and Hawaiian shirts) and from that moment on it’s only a matter of time before the rockin’ starts in a welter of pentatonic scales and overcompressed rack-mounted toms. As George Lucas said recently, seeing rock come back all skrillexed hair and Buckcherried is like seeing your children sold into slavery.

Don’t get me wrong, it had a good run. It’s America’s gift to the world, and we should probably be building pyramids to the rock and roll dead and giant pharaonic statues to the living greats (Little Richard, Betty Davis, Tonetta, Chuck Berry, Iggy Pop, Ozzy Osbourne, David Johansen, Yoko Ono, HR, Dr Know). Beneath each of them we could inscribe some lines of Shelley’s eulogy to the blues, rockabilly, R&B, glitter, punk, and metal: “‘Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'”

Is to do is everything else. Machinery to do our bidding, sales-pitch auto-correction, karaoke, LARPing, re-recording everything from memory in order to avoid intellectual property traps, winding up the dancing chickens. Start a band with Siri. Press play.

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Tex Kerschen is a Houston based gadabout, dilettante, estimate reviser and the Houston Press music listings editor.
Contact: Tex Kerschen