February 03, 2004

Live Report: The Country Teasers, Gorch Fock, Stylites, and Rubble, Emo's, Austin, Texas, January 22, 2004

Before seeing Scottish quintet the Country Teasers live this evening, I’d heard about them through various members of Fallnet (the Fall’s Internet mailing list), most of whom considered the Teasers to be the band most clearly indebted to the Fall (I mean, even MORE so than Girls Against Boys or Pavement). I checked out their latest album Secret Weapon Revealed at Last and couldn’t help but agree. The songs were what the Fall would sound like if they recorded solely on four-track (front man BR Wallers even wrote a short manifesto staunchly defending his “lo-fi” technique on In the Red Records’ website) and used drum machines instead of real kits. The assertive bass lines, intertwining single-note guitar riffs, and constant repetition and ranting are all elements that Mark E. Smith would approve of. The main difference is that the Country Teasers’ lyrics are much more random, misanthropic, and juvenile than Smith’s. Secret Weapon’s first track, “Success,” has a couplet that perfectly sums up Wallers’ outlook on life:

The passage of time is f**king me off and leaving me quite depressed/
Anna Kournikova was thirteen years old when she entered the world of sex…I mean, success!

Wallers spends the rest of the album ruminating on things like death, his hatred of recording studios, and his inescapable sexual desires (song titles include “Young Mums Up For Sex,” “Please Stop F**king Each Other,” and “Man Versus Cock”) in a matter that’s always politically incorrect and frequently hilarious.

Opening band Rubble is a recently formed local sextet featuring members of the Charalambides (whom I love) and the Butthole Surfers (whom I hate). Once these pedigrees were made known to me, I expected to hear some seriously acid-damaged psych-rock. Be careful what you wish for, though, because you just might get it. Each song consisted of little more than two or three chords played over and over again for ten minutes at a time, with all three guitarists soloing simultaneously. For a band so preoccupied with jamming, it was shocking how little the musicians actually LISTENED to each other. Even when the drummer started playing quietly, the guitarists kept raging as if he hadn’t made any dynamic changes. The guitarists didn’t bother to make ANY of their parts work with each other. Musical masturbation is musical masturbation, whether you’re finger-tapping scales faster than the speed of light like Eddie Van Halen, or making noise and flipping switches on effects pedals, as these guys were doing.

The second band, the Stylites, was MUCH better. This local quartet reminded me of Two Dollar Guitar. Both bands play slow, slightly countrified indie-rock songs with moaning boy/girl vocals and guitar chords that are just one note away from being consonant. Many of their songs were in the same tempo, but as soon as their set started to get samey they played a more upbeat song to keep the audience awake. Get into the studio, guys (and gal), and put out an album soon!

The third band, a local septet called Gorch Fock, CRACKED MY SKULL OPEN. They’re on Perverted Son Records, the label started by a bunch of Zulu as Kono/Oh, Beast stalwarts. You already know what this means: they’re a bunch of guys who like metal and Zappa, and think that no band is complete without a second drummer or a second bass player. The lineup was already enough to ensure that the audience would be treated to a massive wall of sound. There were two drummers, three guitarists, a singer who dressed in a boat captain’s uniform and played trombone, and a bass player whose amplifier was so huge that the sound man didn’t even need to put a microphone on it. You couldn’t hear the guitarists because the other instruments were so loud, but it didn’t really matter! Gorch Fock was like a beastly hybrid of Lightning Bolt, Parts & Labor, and Noxagt. Their set was full of shape-shifting, meter-destroying rhythms, marble-mouthed screaming, tremendous breakdowns, flatulent horn fanfares, and even sea-shanty sing-alongs--as befits a band named after a German battleship. The band was so energetic that I couldn’t decide who to keep my eyes on: the drummers (placed so close to each other that they occasionally played each other’s cymbals), the long haired bass player or the spastic singer! I bought their album immediately after the set, and after repeated listening, I was amazed to find out that these tricky, unwieldy songs were all written in one day-long burst of inspiration!

Of course, the Country Teasers’ music isn’t as crunk as Gorch Fock’s, therefore their headlining set ended up being a comedown. Nonetheless, I was very impressed by how much better the band sounded live than on record. Then again, that might not say much because they go out of their way to make their recordings sound crude and dinky. BR Wallers wore a hat and three-piece suit to the show. He was bespectacled, scrawny, and quite shy, huddling close to his guitar as if he were using it as a shield against the audience. He looks like the LAST person you’d imagine singing lyrics as immature as his. (In fact, he looks a bit like Elvis Costello.) Nonetheless, he spat out his lyrics with MES-like authority while strumming rudimentary chord progressions on his guitar, allowing his band mates to fill in all of the melodic blanks and giving very little stage banter in between songs. Of course, seeing the Country Teasers in a live setting, where you can actually make out lyrics and instrumental parts clearly, only INTENSIFIES the band’s debt to the Fall. Like Prego, it’s all in there: the rockabilly vamps, the synthesizer abuse, and the interminable stretches of three-note repetition (I swear that at least three of the songs in their set were rewrites of “Spectre vs. Rector”).

During the encore, Wallers played a solo cover of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh,” which perfectly fit his stridently un-PC image. However, I wonder if Wallers sings lyrics like “that one looks Jewish and that one’s a coon/Who let all of this riffraff into the room?” to shock people, or if he’s really broadcasting some underlying racist sentiments in the disguise of irony? (Methinks he's a meglomaniac who wanted to kill you and the rest of the audience, as is the sentiment of the original song/The Wall concept?--ed)

---Sean Padilla

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