Raves and wave-offs... My cluttered shelves are again calling out for relief -- a spring cubicle-cleaning, if you will, a clearing out of the cluttered mire of pitch letters, band bios and, of course, CDs and cassettes from local bands looking for a little media attention. So in the spirit of starting fresh, I'll give it to them. Here are a few Houston recordings that found their way to the top of the pile.
The first is The Resurrection, from the newly reunited Geto Boys. Okay, so the Boys probably don't care if they get much local press; millions of units sold can build confidence a lot faster than a few inches of newsprint. And there's no lack of confidence -- or should we say ego? -- here. This sounds like a resurrection, all right -- a resurrection of gangsta rap's boastful boys club. Bushwick Bill, Scarface and Willie D. should have spent more time coming up with beats and lyrics and less time developing rhymes to celebrate their comeback. With its self-serving "we're back" lingo, standard-issue spleen-venting and profanity, and unimpressive tales of rage and violence, The Resurrection is the sound of three jacked-up egos eagerly stroking one another. The CD is disarmingly mediocre and too damn long -- 15 tracks, nearly half of them five minutes or more. The shabby grooves just can't sustain the momentum, and the dissing of fellow rappers (no names are mentioned) is equally tired.
Nothing here comes close to reprising the visceral impact of 1991's We Can't Be Stopped. Instead, The Resurrection returns to the over-hyped bluster, shallow insight and humorless rhymes that dragged down the Geto Boys' earliest recordings. A choice low point comes on "I Just Wanna Die," with the excruciating lines, "I don't love my life no more / So I don't want to fight no more / I felt this way before but it died out / So I shot my fuckin' eye out." No way to finesse drivel like that.
On Big Swifty, ex-members of Manic Pop Thrill, the Missiles and Trish & Darin gang together in a new band called (you guessed it) Big Swifty, and quite frankly, not much more can be said about this debut cassette than has already been said about those ultra-sincere, crowd-pleasing groups. Big Swifty is competent collegiate pop driven along by a modest white-blues swing, helped by slippery lyrical allusions and hindered by clumsy singing. The production is fat and crisp for a local release, especially where the guitars are concerned. And the hooks are familiar enough, while staying just this side of derivative. Big Swifty's highlight is the sly "I'm Your Nobody," a punchy, dork-championing diamond in the rough.
Noncompliance: A Collection of Thoughts and Ideas from No Particular Place or Time is a mouthful, but it fits. This second CD compilation from Houston's Broken Note Records is an intimidating assemblage of "thoughts and ideas" -- good and bad, finished and unfinished, old and new -- from, well, everywhere. Hence the "no particular place and time." Local appearances are made by Dinosaur Salad, 30footFALL, the Hates, Humungus with ex-Dead Boy Cheetah Chrome (who shows he's still breathing on the raucous "Ain't It Fun"), Sad Pygmy, Aftershock, Feared Alien Voodoo and a few others. For sure, Noncompliance has its moments. But, rather like Houston's groundless underground music scene, this 24-song collection seems strapped into a bubble set adrift on an undefined course. The CD's first cut, Los Dudes' fresh and immediate "I Hate You All," is its best. But the band's contact number has a New York area code. Hmmm. As for the rest of Noncompliance, it's hit and miss.
Another titular mouthful, You'dsellarat'sassholetoablindmanasaweddingring is an oddball collection of ear-tweaking aural curios. The CD is an emotional gambit any way you look at it -- its soothing and disturbing qualities changing prominence to suit your mood and, perhaps, your state of intoxication. Think if it as a 19-part noise opera -- sometimes it sounds new age, sometimes classical, sometimes just plain unnerving and repetitive, but it's almost always arresting. The CD features Rotten Piece, Richard Ramirez and Kable, along with many other local purveyors of the much-misinterpreted ambient genre. It moves from track to track at an almost liquid pace in a gapless sequence as seemingly endless as the CD's name -- which took me three tries to get right in print, by the way.
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On the road, in the studio... Speedy Houston punks Latch Key Kids recently exited Third Stone Studios with a new four-song EP, Punk Rock Does the Body Good, which will be available in May in the format of the future -- 7-inch vinyl. To boost sales of the release, which will be distributed nationally with the help of the Minneapolis-based Skene label, the band will hit the highway in June with the California band Eveready for a small Western tour. Says guitarist Rhino of the new effort, "The vocals are little bit more polished; our music's developed a lot more."
Taste of Garlic just finished mix-downs on its new full-lengther, Mydixiewrecked (this writer's vote for best and worst CD title of 1996), at Uptown Recording, enlisting the help of local producer Bryan Jones, who did the stellar production work on Atticus Finch's debut. The CD is slated for release in early summer.
Etc.... ZZ Top tested their live legs with shows last week at Mary Jane's and the Urban Art Bar. Word has it the trio's rusty performances of classics such as "Tush" and "Cheap Sunglasses" is nothing that can't be cured by six months on the road in support of its upcoming release, rumored to be one of the Top's most stripped-down and gimmick-free effort in awhile. Coming to town this week and worth the expense: lounge lizard menaces Girls Against Boys at Deep Phat, hard-core anti-legends D.O.A. and NoMeansNo at Fitzgerald's and off-kilter, proto-punk experimentalists Primus at the International Ballroom, all Thursday; the multifaceted Rory Block at Billy Blues Friday; Christian alt-rockers DC Talk at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Saturday; guitar innovator Michael Hedges at Rockefeller's Sunday; and the comeback-minded '80s synth icon Howard Jones at Rockefeller's Tuesday. -- Hobart Rowland