If you’re dismayed about the pace of change in this city, I have three words for you: “Keep Haltom High.”
This mantra is the name of the opening track of 2112”, the latest release from Haltom City stoner-rock legends the Me-Thinks, and, no, that end-quote mark is not a typo. 2112” is a three-song collection released in the 12-inch 45 RPM vinyl format, and if that sounds excessive, consider that this record comes from a band that has a tradition — or maybe even a goal — to make each release at least as brilliantly moronic as the last. In that regard, they’ve set the bar even higher for themselves with their latest, and that says a lot, seeing as how their first release, Make Mine a Double EP, spread a single album’s songs across two CDs designated “Worse” and “Worser.”
“Keep Haltom High,” like many Me-Thinks songs, is an ode to marijuana, but the first line, itself a biographical logline for the band, kind of struck me as accidentally poignant. Over the band’s signature fuzzed-out thunder, frontman/bassist Ray Liberio bellows, “Last of a dying breed / Still smoking analog weed / We never went nowhere / We never even cared.”
And that’s the honest-to-Satan truth of it. This is a band that’s been around for over two decades, crewed by longtime buddies, most of whom have been playing together off and on for 30 years. No matter what the Fort Worth music scene has looked and sounded like, the Me-Thinks have persisted, mighty as ever, unchanged and unbowed, like an ancient alligator in a primeval swamp, surfacing every now and again to exhale weed smoke and frighten tourists. The amps never get smaller. The volume only gets louder. And the album-cover rock ’n’ roll jokes get funnier every time.
In this case, the joke is 2112, Rush’s 1976 album that found the Canadian hard-rockers delving ever deeper into prog. And that’s really all I want to spoil for you, because unveiling this slab is seriously just as fun as listening to it. But in the way living fossils have outlasted millennia of disasters and evolutionary fads, 2112” is a testament to a band that kept it together for 21 years, one of which included a pandemic’s quarantine.
The band wrote the songs in 2019 and recorded them at Electric Barryland in Justin in February 2020, after the producer, Fort Worth’s Jordan Richardson (Ringo Starr, Ben Harper, Son of Stan), returned from playing drums for greasy Fort Worth blues-rockers the Quaker City Night Hawks.
“And then COVID just threw everything out of whack,” Liberio said. “We had the songs recorded. They just needed to be mixed and mastered,” and guitarist Doty (House Harkonnen, Duell, Son of Stan, Van Damme) needed to record a solo on one song.
“And then it just stalled,” Liberio said. “Recently, I got one of those Facebook things where it’s like, ‘Hey, this happened two years ago!’ And it was a picture of us in the barn [Electric Barryland]. And [Richardson] was like, ‘Oh, shit. Was that really two years ago?’ And everyone was dealing with their fuckin’ mental health, too, y’know? Releasing it was the furthest thing from our minds at the time.”
So, the Me-Thinks sat on it for two years, though the delay did give Liberio, who runs the graphic design firm Pussyhouse Propaganda, time to finish up the artwork before the recording process was complete. Guitarist Marlon Von Bungy, Liberio said, “joked that this is the first record where I had the art done before we got the mastered files.”
Tracked and mixed by Richardson at Electric Barryland and mastered by Chris Hanszek (Melvins, Soundgarden), the record collects “Keep Haltom High” and another Me-Thinks track, “Settle for Less,” on each side, along with a pair of unnamed-but-credited covers. Besides Liberio and bandmates Doty, Von Bungy, guitarist Johnny Trashpockets, and drummer Trucker Jon Simpson, Pinkish Black frontman Daron Beck plays piano on the cover on the first side, and Chris Bellomy contributes a wild sax part on “Keep Haltom High,” dumping a Fear-some solo over the fuzzy loudness like nugs out of a Ziploc bag.
The band will release the record on Saturday at Lola’s, playing the outdoor stage with Denton’s The Spectacle and Dallas’ Loco Gringos (the late-’80s skatepunks and the Me-Thinks’ main inspiration). As I listened to 2112” for, like, the fifth time, I texted Liberio about how funny the lyrics are.
“Those words are why we still get a kick out of this dumb band after 21-plus years,” he replied.
The more things change, the more the Me-Thinks stay the same.
8pm Sat w/The Spectacle and Loco Gringos at Lola’s Fort Worth, 2000 W Berry St, FW. 817-759-9500.