Killer or Filler?
So indie-rock has taken over Fort Worth.
Not so fast, kemo sabe.
There’s still more to Le Fort than smart, melodic, rough-around-the-edges rock. Exhibit A: the following newish recordings.
Joey Green’s Lo 5
Joey Green’s doing it wrong. Here you have this extremely talented singer-songwriter with an extremely talented band who has just put out a major album yet still seems to be stuck in the sports bar/barbecue joint circuit (his newish weekly residency at Whiskey Girl Saloon notwithstanding). For some (most?) of us, the last thing we want to see or hear is some guy rocking out onstage while we’re just trying to enjoy our ribs and watch the damn game. Why isn’t Green doing more to showcase himself? Why aren’t he and his band playing Magnolia Motor Lounge on the reg? Or Lola’s Saloon? Or The Grotto? With all due respect to Skooterz Bar and Busy Bee Café, Green’s new record, Lo 5, was produced by Ken Coomer, the dude behind legendary platters by Wilco, Steve Earle, and Uncle freaking Tupelo. Why isn’t all of Fort Worth rallying behind Joey?
Whatever the answer, Green’s got a gem of a new album on his hands. Recorded in Nashville, Lo 5 offers bright, sugary, straightforward roots rock with a semi-twangy vibe. And it’s ready for radio — most of the choruses are repetitive rather than melodic or rhyming. But would you expect anything less from a pure pop songwriter? The good news is that while Green is indeed swinging for the fences here he does not bow to formula. We’re not saying he’s trying to be the Texas version of King Crimson or Shostakovich, but he rarely shows his hand in his songs, demanding the listener’s attention –– after all, is there anything worse than knowing how a tune is going to end after the first 30 seconds? No, and Green avoids that trap by opting for subtlety and for tact over obvious structuring.
He’s also got a great, raspy voice. On the slow-burning “Love Criminal” and weepy “Love” (which should be subtitled “To All My Recent Dumpees Out There!”), he hits all the right notes without any dramatics. On “Get Lost,” he raises the roof. On every song, he’s himself, an everyman trapped in a world full of corner-bar femme fatales, limited options, and poor decision makers.
A soulful ballad about too much damn rambling and carousing, “So Sorry” is one song you can imagine hearing on the radio. (The gospel vibe running throughout Lo 5 can mostly be attributed to Joseph Jones’ buzzing organ.) Another is “Ballad of Roy Geiter.” The album’s obligatory swamp-rock opus is aimed squarely at North Texas music lovers who gleefully hop from The Ranch to KZPS to Jack-FM. Co-written with “R. McBride” (who could only be Saginaw singer-songwriter “Ryan McBride”), the song, a subdued rant from the perspective of a Hurricane Katrina victim, is dark, haunting, and bluesy, featuring mean slide guitarwork from former Black Crowe Audley Freed (who also contributed hot lixxx to Fort Worthian Collin Herring’s 2008 Coomer-produced album Past Life Crashing). “Roy Geiter” is a highlight on an album full of them. –– A.M.
Wire Nest’s Wire Nest
Too often the more ambient strains of dub music are so minimalist they sound like Trent Reznor on Benadryl –– what’s supposed to be spare, stark, and ominous just sounds thin and full of droopy clickity-clack sound effects. Wire Nest, a downtempo dub super-group composed of Sub Oslo’s Frank Cervantez and John Nuckels, doesn’t entirely escape the trap of somnolent navel-gazing on its self-titled debut album. But there are enough surprising and urgent sonic elements to keep listeners from dismissing the tunes as the soundtrack for a smack party.
“Sea of Sand” starts out full of standard echoing percussion and then rallies with a small, earnest melody that reinvents the whole tune and plants it firmly in your head. “Moon Buggy” gradually builds to a delicate Southeast Asian-flavored reverie with sitar flourishes. The moody sonic waters of “Ancient Mariner” are full of ghostly ship horns moaning like cattle against a staticky backbeat and a gently consoling guitar. The album’s best piece turns out to be one of its most repetitive –– “Yellow-Crowned Night Heron” features the same guitar line tolling over and over like muted bells to undeniably gorgeous effect.
Reviewed favorably in The Wire, an enormous London-based international magazine devoted to outré music (a publication that’s probably never printed the words “Fort Worth” before), Wire Nest might not be breaking any new ground in the flourishing field of dub/electronica, but the musicians are clearly interested in creating something a little more substantial than moody atmospherics. –– J.F.
Jim Colegrove’s 3 Quarter Dime
Jim Colegrove is no rookie rocker. The guy co-founded two popular local bands in the 1970s, Little Whisper & The Rumors and The Juke Jumpers. Early bandmates included Fort Worth’s best guitar brothers, Sumter and the late Stephen Bruton. The bros had studied early rock guitarists such as Scotty Moore and paid homage with their fingers through years of musicmaking.
And yet somehow Colegrove sounds like a teenager again on 3 Quarter Dime, like he’s jamming with buddies at a garage kegger back in the day. If you’re wondering whether that’s good or bad, the answer is yes.
Sometimes, live performances start off poorly as the soundman struggles to set sound levels while the musicians try to find their groove. This album is a studio effort, but it starts out the same way. “Chinese Launch” made me think someone blew out an amplifier on the first note, creating a distorted musical chaos from which the tune can’t recover. Production improves on Colegrove’s rethinking of “The Twist,” which he calls “Assisted Twister,” but the song does little to erase the sour memory of the first track.
Colegrove, though, assured himself a fairly positive review with Track No. 3, “Lost River.” Remember the scene in Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk till Dawn when Salma Hayek is dancing in the vampire bar with a white snake draped over her while Tito & Tarantula perform “After Dark” with an eerie combination of dread and lust? “Lost River” is like that.
Colegrove has never done a purely instrumental album before. On Dime, he channels early guitar heroes such as Link Wray and Duane Eddy and, like them, lets the wood and steel do the talking. Power chords, whammy bars, and melody lines ringing through reverbed amplifiers hoist you into a world of surfing and partying.
Colegrove’s small but tight band — drummer Linda Waring, guitarist David McMillan, and bassist Rob Caslin — doesn’t reinvent the wheel as much as polish up an old tire and roll it back out there. But it’s a mostly welcome sound once they find the groove. –– J.P.