River City ~ Dispatches from Austin

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

It just came across the wire - okay, our wire runs a little slow sometimes:

UNLIMITED SUNSHINE TOUR 2002 -- including The Flaming Lips, De La Soul, Modest Mouse, Cake, Kinky, and The Hackensaw Boys, will be touring the U.S. this summer (from the Cake web site.)
Oh, my. Our knees get weak at the thought. As Elvis said, "it's hard to breathe, and my chest is a-heavin'.." We're no experts on the musical stylings of Kinky or the Hackensaw Boys. But a bill that leads with the Flaming Lips, Modest Mouse, De La Soul and Cake is exactly what this summer needs, and exactly what River City needs to cover on location, in person.

Get your tickets now, becauseā€¦ wait, what's that you say? The Unlimited Sunshine Tour 2002 isn't going anywhere near Texas? Curses! The tour logs some serious time in the Midwest, and the closest it gets to Austin is probably Kansas City. Road trip, anyone? The thought brings us to our in-depth focus for this week - Good Drivin' Music. Tune in to our inside section, River City News: In Too Deep for this amazing scientific study.

Monday, June 10, 2002

The weekend has come and gone, and taken with it the Corey Feldman Band, the Big Fight, and a few more hours of wasted sleep that the editor will never reclaim. So on Monday morning, all that's left is what stares us in the face from the e-mail inbox.

Normally, River City News handles reader letters in one of its inside pages, River City: Submerged. But today's mail was just too shocking to be buried there. We need some expert help with this one:

Dear Member,

It has come to our attention that your name may be 1 of the 30,000,0000 people in North America that has unclaimed riches to be claimed.

Please Click Here to Enter your name in the Unclaimed Money Search Engine to verify Immediately: http://9897.foundmoney.com (Notification Date: 05/24/02)

Unclaimed Funds Department
Found Money.com

Is this great or what? Enjoy River City News while you can, because it looks like retirement is right around the corner, what with the forthcoming claiming of unclaimed riches (to be claimed)!

Guest writer and longtime pal Harrison Pak knows what it's like to recieve bizarre e-mails as a matter-of-course. And he's speaking up about it! Read his rant in River City: In Too Deep.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

We thought perhaps it was just a rumor, or maybe even a threat. But as the date nears, reality is setting in and River City News is bracing for a visit to our lovely city from The Corey Feldman Band.

Longtime pal Steve Scheibal first brought us the news of this impending "gig," and it was hoped that he was somehow mistaken. At the very least, there was a chance that this was a band going for camp value, naming themselves after an 80's heartthrob in some misguided attempt to appeal to 80's nostalgia (a nostalgia that is woefully misguided in its own right). But alas, this is a code red. This is the second coming of Dogstar (Keanu Reeve's old band). This is a band fronted by, named by (and for), and containing Corey Feldman.

We always want to give the benefit of the doubt. Just because he played the perpetual wannabe-guitar-rock prick in the movies is no reason to assume he can't actually perform musically. But common sense, and an overwhelming feeling of "we've seen this all before," dictates that this band is an embarrassment to all things rock & roll - so we did some research.

It's fitting that the most info we could find about The Corey Feldman Band (TCFB) came from some web site put together by two total losers. Read their ridiculous story here, as they detail their mission to see TCFB and meet Corey. Among other highlights, it seems CF came out on stage initially wearing a hood "to hide his face." His name is on the posters, for chrissakes! Who was he hoping to surprise?

Next comes the revelation that CF, during the course of the show, strips off many layers of shirts (including the hood, we assume) before finally standing there in all his shirtless wonder. Have mercy on us, Corey!

But what about the art? How are the songs? In reality, is impossible to tell from the two losers' web site. But we can get some insight from the fact that the band played "Stand By Me" during its encore. Okay, that's enough. Time to head for the door, nothing more to see here. This is another actor-turned-trivia-question-turned-musician who is trying to distract us. The Corey Feldman Band plays this Saturday at Six of Clubs, a venue River City has never heard of. We have to wonder if TCFB had to open its own club to book itself in Austin.

Monday, June 03, 2002

The first thing to strike me about the band was their name: The Mendoza Line. As I strained to place the reference, I realized it was buried somewhere far away from rock & roll. Texas Rangers fans might remember a somewhat inconsequential, bespectacled first baseman named Mario Mendoza. Mendoza was one of those everyday, hard-working players who showed up to the ballpark without much fanfare. He played for the Rangers in the late seventies to early eighties, and wouldn't have ranked much more than a speck on the baseball map if it weren't for his spectacular record in underachievement: Mendoza garnered a lifetime batting average of something just over .200. In baseball, that ain't so hot. I'm not sure where or when the term was coined, but at some point, struggling players were said to be trying to "get above the Mendoza line."

Wherever he is, Mario can see his name in lights again, thanks to Brooklyn band "The Mendoza Line." These indie-alt-country rockers have been steadily raising their own bar and have gathered critical acclaim for their latest album, Lost in Revelry, released in February. And if you missed it then, and didn't see them at South by Southwest, it might be time to step up to the plate and welcome yourself to one of the best albums of the year.

Lost in Revelry is well-conceived and really a great listen. Its timeless sound is the result of a great line dance between subtlety and swagger. It's music that should sound full of pretense, but without an ounce of it. There is an attitude in the sound and the lyrics that makes you feel personally involved in the songs.

The opening cut, "A Damn Good Disguise," is the album's most engaging, largely because of the way it sets up this mood. Infused with a heavy dose of southern steel guitar, the galloping song hits on all cylinders. Rolling through lines like "I won't be there when you change your mind/but if your heart should change I guess I might be found/whether covered with lies under paint that never dries / it'll take a damn good disguise to live this one down," it's joined with hootin' and hollerin background vocals, and an organ that kicks in as the song builds. You can hear Steve Earle, Uncle Tupelo, Dylan; but this song and this sound belong exclusively to The Mendoza Line. "Something Dark," with lead vocals by Shannon Mary McArdle, is like an other-worldly Lucinda Williams tryst. A spurned McArdle sings to her man: "I didn't know you liked a girl in a hat/You told me once if I went out like that that you wouldn't split the bill."

These guys apparently got started in Georgia, and the southern influence serves them well. It also deserts them, for some reason, in the second half of Lost in Revelry. It's a strange passage, but not necessarily a bad one. They sound much more like an indie band on cuts like "Under Radio," drawing closer comparisons to the Pixies or Built to Spill than anything country. Lost in Revelry isn't perfect, and the weakness lies in some of the songs later in the album. "I'm That!" and closer "The Way of the Weak" showcase McArdle leading us on renditions that sound strikingly like Yo La Tengo. The sound just gets somewhat slow and bogged down. Nothing grabs you like the front end of Revelry: The shining moments on the album really stand out in "Disguise," as well as the smooth, catchy "Whatever Happened to You," the urgent "It'll Be the Same Without You," and the mellow, dream-like "Triple Bill of Shame." The jangly guitars and alt-country sound is a perfect backdrop to the unassuming and sometimes rough-voiced vocals. And I'm not saying that just because I'm from Texas, and have a soft spot for southern sounds and ex-Texas Rangers.