Nestled snug in the idyllic Fairmount Historic District is one of the legitimate braggables in Fort Worth’s music scene. Since the inception of Dreamy Life Records, the label/music store has been on a mission to put its hometown in the esteemed company of cities synonymous with great local music, like Austin, L.A., and New York.
Its latest effort on this front is Group Therapy, Vol. 4, another installment in the label’s celebrated compilation series. Four years removed from the inaugural volume, the scope of the collection has widened considerably, almost doubling the number of contributors, but it’s managed to maintain the crucial elements of localism and identity that have been center to the label’s previous releases.
In keeping with the tradition of Vol. 1, the impressive roster of 2017 bands, including Sealion, Loafers, Movie the Band, Pearl Earl, Toy Gun, and nearly two dozen others, headed into Cloudland Recording Studio, the label’s own sound lab, to track the songs live – one band per hour – in a massive marathon recording session. The crazed process, overseen by label cofounders Jennifer and Robby Rux (The Fibs, Year of the Bear, Bitch Bricks) and Cameron Smith (a sometimes Weekly contributor), along with veteran engineer Britt Robisheaux (Pinkish Black, Jandek, BJ Thomas), is a major part of the inspiration for the series’ title.
“The name ‘Group Therapy’ just seemed appropriate to me, given the cathartic nature of music,” Smith said.
Group Therapy’s artists hit frequencies all across the musical spectrum, from VVOES’ haunting dark wave to the danceable electro-clash of Starbass Laboratories and even the head-nodding hip-hop of Juma Spears. But the core is built around the warm-blanket, reverb-soaked garage punk normally associated with the label. The offering from Smith’s band, the ever-infectious War Party, “Start Fighting,” is a representitive track in this vein. It’s a song that comments on the duality of human nature: a desire to control and a lazy acquiescence to chaos. It’s also a call to arms, a poignant and topical challenge to battle those who would do others harm.
“If you won’t ever let them tear us apart again / Better pick up a stick and start fighting,” Smith sings on the outro, cueing a hooky guitar line to layer on top of the “Telstar”-style organ bed that drives the song throughout.
Other highlights include: Teenage Sexx’s “Honestly,” a song that tenderly recounts a protagonist being alone in a crush’s room and putting on her makeup; Sub-Sahara’s “Royale with Cheese,” a charging punk anthem carried by an ear-worming, modal, East Bay Ray-inspired guitar lick; and “Sunbeams,” a psych-blues rocker by Jack Thunder & The Road Soda.
Perhaps my favorite track is “Drew Tib,” by BULLS. The way the spidery guitars (guest-featuring Darren Miller from Tame … Tame and Quiet) crawl over the sliding bass line and staggered snare rolls recalls the labyrinthine turns of post-rock pioneers Slint and Unwound. A new edition to this year’s volume, BULLS stands out not only in musical style but also in tone. It’s a moodier (in a good way) track compared to the bratty (in a good way) punk that comprises most of the volume.
Group Therapy, Vol. 4 is a laudable collection of some of North Texas’ finest artists. In Smith’s words, “There is something really special happening here in DFW. And by staying here together, we are building our own identity and sound that is unique among the globe.”
You can catch a sneak peek of select tracks on Dreamy Life’s Bandcamp page. The album’s official release is Sunday, Oct 15, at Shipping & Receiving, featuring performances by many of the contributing artists, including War Party, Sealion, Bitch Bricks, Doom Ghost, and Prof. Fuzz 63.