Featured Music: Wednesday, March 6, 2003
Killer or Filler?

A new batch of local c.d.’s for the savoring/skewering.


Overall, a decent gang. I took in the brunt of ’em on a trek to and from Houston a week ago. For the record: You must know that the stretch of I-45 between Cowtown and H-town is a long, tiresome, emasculating maiden. Sometimes music — from shitty to not-so-shitty, so long as it’s loud — is the only thing that keeps me from entering dreamland in a comfy quilt of twisted metal and fire. One particular disc that roused me from my sleep-driving was an eponymous platter by Purple Overdose. I didn’t really pay that much attention to the music. I counted overpasses. I swore at people. I contemplated Planned Residential Developments (you would think that if developers are building more homes on fewer acres of land that the increased density would severely stress local infrastructures — how it doesn’t is pure magic). And I played Tetris on my cell phone. But the point is, I was doing something other than pretending to concentrate on driving. And for this, I give all credit to Purple Overdose and their handsome new disc.

Funny thing is that when I actually did tune into the music, which was for about five songs tops (out of 11), I detected a trace of coolness — a trace about the size of Courtney Love’s willingness to resist being a sloppy crack whore who applies her makeup in the dark while sloshing around a tub of Jim Beam, but a trace nonetheless. Crisp, Beatle-esque hues colored the patch of c.d. I listened to a sugary pink. The sound was held together by way-cool background ahhh’s, the zipper on Ringo’s leather jacket, G-chords, and cream cheese. I guess I think I liked it.

And in the middle of this orchestrated ruckus, there was a not-so-concealed attempt to get stuck in some big-shot program director’s skull, a space likely filled with hair gel, rat semen, and lead paint chips. The pic of the boys on the back of the c.d. validated my hunch: Four smooooooth young dudes in black (yes, one is in shades; three are wearing heavy silver neck jewelry). Note to Mr. Program Director: Not only are these boys, musically, ready for drive time, they’re ready for the cover of Hits! Now, whether or not being prepared for a close-up on said mag is the kind of quality you like in your local musicians is your call. I say it’s a kinda like bragging about your ability to brush your teeth with either hand — it smacks of trying too damn hard. Which could explain why “The Dose,” as the band’s now professionally known, is a certified hit with the jailbait at the Ridglea Theater and not with the mature, discerning, well-preserved alcoholics at the Wreck Room.

Please understand that it would be sheer folly to count out The Dose. These guys know they got the goods. Right now, they’re probably ordering boxes of condoms for a yet-to-be-scheduled mini-tour of southwestern Louisiana. They’re lining up a bus driver whose list of indecencies with farm animals is only half as long as the phone book. They’re making the computer gremlins who run MapQuest crazy with requests for the shortest routes from Loozianan La Quintas to liquor stores (if not for the bandmembers, then for the groupies). And the Tough-Yet-Sensitive One is dying his hair blond, being sure to keep those roots black and to not laugh too hard when someone cracks a joke about Pete Townshend, because if you laugh too hard, you’ll get hair dye in your eye, and it’ll sting like a million tiny scorpions thrusting their anal swords into your brain, and you’ll explode into tears and loud yelps, and your best friend, the bass player, will vomit from watching you scream and moan like a 12-year-old girl, and you’ll wish your mother would’ve crushed your fragile head at birth with her inner-thigh power, and then you’ll want to leave the band for good, and it’ll just all be downhill from there. Or maybe you’ll merely have to dress like Christina Aguilera for the rest of your life. Either way, you’re screwed. Focus is the key.

So, The Dose: Solid guitar rock, with neat little semi-bluesy riffs that border on progressive rock, swinging beats, solid harmonies, crafty songs sculpted by moderately talented musicians who’re unafraid of flexing their collective rock muscles — there are even a few guitar solos throughout; they’re not complicated, but at least they’re there! — and an honest-to-goodness respect for themselves and for the music of rock. “So Apropos” is the best track. It begins with dueling guitars going at it on a small hair-metal figure and then breaks into a rocker that hums along at a head-bopping tempo, all heavy guitars, sweet chord progressions, and complex vocal melodies. In short: Purple Overdose is a 1999 convertible Corvette in a world of 2002 Hyundais. A good thing, if you like. B-

O-lee, O-lee-O!

More than I want to run for governor of the great state of Maine or convert my natural hair oil into cash, I wanted to like this c.d. by the band formerly known as Olio, now called Make Way. All the good ingredients are here: single-string guitar riffs, with subsequent interplay between the vocal and instrumental melodies; a lyrical yearning for sunshine in a world of cumulonimbus clouds; a vocal delivery that sounds the same whether the singer’s breaking up with his girlfriend or being mauled by a vengeful grizzly bear on a coke bender. This is the stuff of great retro-pop. Why it all adds up to nothing here is one big fat mystery — but a mystery that just might have its unraveling in the fact that these guys simply need to spend more time woodshedding. The drummer’s kinda hit-or-miss and comes in seemingly at his leisure (“Oh, there’s a song going on? Shit!”). The guitarists appear to be playing with their off hands. And the vocals are simply dreadful, like somebody-please-kill-the-walrus-burping-outside-my-window-at-6-frickin’-30-every-morning bad. The thing I really like, though, is that these guys aren’t hiding behind irony, like some lesser talents are wont to do. All these boys need is a couple more months in the can (not on the can, of course), and they’ll be, um, solid. C-

Kiss Me, I’m Not Irish

I like Irish folk as much as the next Italian American who grew up alongside various Irish lads and lasses and often teased them for not having as cool an ethnicity as I did. We had Rocky. They had Mickey. We had Pat Benatar. They had Eddie Money. We had fancy Italian restaurants. They had holes in the wall that served beer, whiskey, wine that tasted like windshield-wiper fluid, and peanuts. It must have been tough growing up Irish — and even tougher to grow older and discover that some fey dancer was mucking up whatever little dignity remained in Irish heritage by wearing leather pants and dancing really fast on his toes in public. Even I felt a little relief for my Irish friends once I learned that there was an outfit called the Chieftains making a relatively decent living by playing traditional Celtic music throughout the land. To say that I’m now pretty sick of any type of world music other than Afro-beat would be an understatement on par with saying I think sex with Heidi Klum would be better than having the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce logo burned into my left cheek. Even so, I endured this disc, Havin’ a Tune, by locals Threadneedle St. without once wanting to stick a rabid wolverine down my pants. No qualms here: This foursome is highly skilled, well-rehearsed, clearly in love with what it does, blah, blah, blah. Fact is: If your idea of a good time is wearing that Larry Byrd uniform you made out of second-hand Hanes underwear and green magic marker and dancing in front of a mirror, then you’ll like this c.d.

Me, I’ll stick with my Gino Vanelli, thank you very much. B

Older, Pussycat! Grow, Grow!

This is supposed to be funny, right? Speed-punk that sounds like it was recorded in somebody’s basement on looseleaf paper? Not bad, considering. Swilley is a bunch of young dudes who’ve apparently mastered more than three chords and two types of beats, and this disc is a few months old, so it’s logical to assume that these guys are in the middle of recording what will surely be the world’s next OK Computer. What’s got my brain all twisted is that there are five — count ‘em, five! — guys in the band. I thought this was punk?!? Messrs. Swilley, think of all the stage space that’d open up for the jumping and prancing around if you all would cut two bandmembers. To say nothing of the groupie-to-musician ratio! Just food for thought ... .

Anyhoo, I like “Stuck,” with its funny little rap over a heavy, swinging bass line and snappy drum work (which eventually dissolves into flat-out rock, a la Nickelback, then ska, then ska-rap). There’s even an a cappella part in which the lead singer delivers the chorus while another guy on the mic sings the first strophe. The Beach Boys, these kids aren’t, but this is pretty tight, commendable stuff overall. C+

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