Ronald Reagan's Army

Austin's Yuppie Prick$ exist beyond the parameters of the never-ending "What is punk?" debate. Completely. While their music undoubtedly has much in common with the Buzzcocks and the Sex Pistols, their backgrounds and lyrics do not. Not for them the dead-end jobs as butcher's assistants or fish-and-chips counter help, nor the frustrations of lives in the dole queue. Nope, this is a punk band only Jeffrey Skilling and Andrew Fastow could love, or maybe even join.

According to their Web site, Yuppie Prick$ lead singer Trevor Middleton -- the heir to a pharmaceutical fortune -- has an estimated worth of $30.5 million; guitarist Deuce Hollingsworth claims to be the only third-generation divorce lawyer in the Southwest; drummer Nigel Smythen-Wesson is the ne'er-do-well scion of a wealthy English family who joined the band after "pranging" his Bentley into Middleton's BMW; bassist (and Houston native) Preston Hetherington is a multimillionaire stockbroker who lists one of his hobbies as "hunting endangered species." (Another of his off-stage pursuits is the operation of an Internet porn site -- he regards the band's shows as fine talent-scouting opportunities.)

That's what their bios say, anyway, so it must all be true. At any rate, as you might expect, the songs these guys write range far from the usual anarchic spleen-venting of the old-school punks, not to mention the "my parents/girls just don't understand me" harangues of the more recent crop of punks. Instead, they remake the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" as "Prosperity in the USA," complete with lines like "I am the next Bill Gates / I buy and sell real estate." Then there's "Boo Fucking Hoo," in which Sally Struthers and other "feed the kids" types are brushed off with the blunt "I need a cup of coffee to stimulate my greed." There's also a salute to band hero Arnold Schwarzenegger -- in one of their songs, the burly Alpine politico gets a blow job in the most politically incorrect car of all time in "Hummer in My Hummer." (Sample lyrics: "As the Governator / I hereby decree / Wrap your lips around / My Austrian Red Heat.") And they penned the very first pro-suburbia song in punk history in "Suburban Living," wherein they boast that "We don't have drug deals down the block / You won't see crack whores sucking cock / All our drugs are kept inside / Don't keep blow in my ride / Suburban living is the life for me."

Which brings up a paradox. What could be more punk than rebelling against everything punk is supposed to stand for? The Yuppie Prick$ could very well be the most punk band on earth. But how does an obscenely rich, archconservative pharmaceutical heir become a punk rocker, anyway? Racket put the question to Middleton. "Boy, that's kind of a long story," he says. "I had some run-ins with the pops about future control of the company, and I had this disillusionment period where I kinda gave up some of my worldly possessions for a while and hit the streets." (He also had some burnout issues going; as he put it on the band Web site, "Three super-models and four grams of blow a day just wasn't cutting it anymore.") "So then I ended up at a couple of punk rock shows and fell in love with the music. And one time I was kind of passed out outside a club and this guy drove by and threw some pocket change at me. That kind of woke my ass up so I picked up all my credit cards and re-entered the real world, but I believed that people could still enjoy the musical part of the punk rock, without…"

He struggles to find the right words, a pithy way to explain the essence of the Yuppie Prick$.

"You don't have to be a poor loser to play good music and have a good time," he finally concludes. That's the heart of this band. You see, they are something like Christian rockers in that they use music as a Trojan horse, but instead of faith in God, they have faith in supermodels, fat bottom lines, leveraged buyouts, custom-built titanium drivers and towering mounds of uncut cocaine. They see their shows as punk PowerPoint presentations, though few sales meetings are as raunchy and cruel as YP shows, where the wretched losers who come to see them are peppered with abuse, lectured on the wonders of laissez-faire capitalism and showered with dollar bills -- some hurled from the stage, others whacked at them inside stuffed plastic golf balls. Another staple of their earlier shows is the ass-kissing segment, in which Middleton drops trou and offers the first person to kiss his bare butt a $20 bill. (The moral? That it pays to kiss ass in the music business.)

Evidently the Prick$ have smooched some of the right posteriors. They just finished recording their second album at renowned Austin studio the Bubble with Frenchie Smith of Young Heart Attack, and they will be shopping the CD at South By Southwest. One label that has nibbled so far is Alternative Tentacles, the Berkeley, California, outfit founded and run by punk legend Jello Biafra. Middleton believes their signing would be mutually beneficial. "He needs to have some proper conservative philosophy on his label, alongside that lib-rull hogwash they're usually spewing," he dryly notes. "He understands the mass-marketing possibilities -- he has a bunch of bands on his label that probably only sell a thousand copies. He has to be looking forward to a band like us that could actually make him a few dollars."

The band also has its first sponsorship deal lined up. "Hoven sunglasses got in contact with us today," Middleton says. "They're in the $50 to $70 range, so maybe one out of every ten of our fans could get them, as opposed to the zero out of ten that could afford the glasses we usually wear. Maybe we'll give away a pair every now and then to a lucky fan. Wouldn't that be a treat?"

This show marks their Houston debut, at least musically. Golf's another matter. "We've played TPC plenty of times, but never music," Middleton says. And though it seems the Bayou City would be a better hometown than hippy-dippy Austin for a band of Yuppie Prick$, don't expect them to make a habit of playing here, much less relocate. "All that pollution is damaging to the skin," Middleton says. "I prefer Austin."

That may be the only true thing he says in this article.

The Yuppie Prick$ appear Saturday, February 21, at the Axiom, 2524 McKinney, 713-522-8443. Sons of Hercules and Gun Crazy are also on the bill.

Scuttlebutt Caboose

Promoter Clement Aldridge is starting what he hopes will be a monthly industry showcase at the Engine Room. Called the Candu Showcase, the February 20 initial edition features Hollywood High, the Handsomes, White Noise Transistor and Drexl. White Noise Transistor is a young rock band produced by Derek Dunivan of Pure Rubbish fame…The Blue Monday jam is back on the corner of Dowling and Alabama, where the former Miss Ann's Playpen has been renamed Goodfellows, and Lady D and the Blue Flames have replaced Bobby Lewis as the host. Lady D's band includes Little Stanley on bass and vocals, former Albert Collins keyboardist Bobby Alexis, drummer Wayne Johnson and guitarist Sam Pemberton. As with Miss Ann's, the Goodfellows jam is drawing in the big names -- I.J. Gosey, Little Joe Washington, Andy "Too Hard" Williams, Robert Mason, D.D. Brett, Rick Lee and Juan Abair, among others, have all already dropped in over the jam's three-week run, and Pemberton says that "any musicians young or old, white or black or other, are very welcome." The jam runs from eight to midnight…Vintage country-western swingsters Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys will release their, ahem, smokin' debut CD, Texas Hill Country, next month. Catch 'em live amid the Mardi Gras madness at Java's in Galveston February 21…The Continental Club Cosa Nostra has a new club two doors down from their showcase. Shoeshine Charlie's Big Top Lounge is a much quieter alternative to the raucous bar nearby, and time flies past amid the retro furnishings, Falstaff and Pabst beer signs, cheesy paintings and 70-year-old circus-themed murals that line some of the walls in what was once, long ago, a toy store. So far, it's mostly just a hang, but the Dazzling Pete Gray will soon be tickling the ivories and leading the same sort of sing-alongs he's been conducting over at Leon's Lounge on McGowen, and other acts will play acoustic sets…Billy Joe Shaver has been announced as the opening act for Kid Rock. Shaver and Kid have been writing together, and the twosome recently had dinner in Nashville with Kid's ex-DJ and Motor City homie Uncle Kracker.

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John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax