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Bob Schneider

The Californian

(Vanguard; US: 8 Aug 2006; UK: 7 Aug 2006)

“Saw you on a building / Shining like a sunflower / Put your put your pants on / Thought I’d take a chance on / You!”


Bob Schneider used to spend all his time pissing people off in confrontational and/or sophomoric Austin bands like Ugly Americans and the Scabs.  But ever since he embarked on his solo career, more and more people have realized just how great a songwriter and singer he is. He’s literate and fun, a dude who has absorbed boogie-band and punk influences and puts them together in his own strange way, with a severely warped sense of humor.


“Got a passable karate / Got the real live wire / Crazy combination / Couldn’t get any higher / Got the gamma radiation / The chocolatey swirl / Sticky implication/ Holding in the world”


Schneider understands that you don’t have to be dumb to rock hard, and that just because you’re smart you don’t have to sound like an asshole. His lyrics channel both Elvis Costello and Charlie Robison, but without the self-congratulation of the former or the country shadings of the latter (although he happens to be opening for some of the Dixie Chicks dates on the current tour). Like Ike Reilly, his Chicago doppleganger, Schneider seems to have learned his basic template from Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”: just keep hitting ‘em with killer lines, but treat it all like it’s no big deal, you got more where that last one came from. It’s a pretty awesome template.


“Baby here’s the game plan / I’m-a be a new man / I’m-a start over / Be a little better than / Better than I used to be / Back in the ‘70s / Baby I can do it / Baby you can count on me”


This album is supposedly more “rock” than his other solo stuff; it also chronicles the end of guitarist Billy Harvey’s tenure with Schneider’s band. Again, it doesn’t really matter, except that Harvey is a great muscular guitarist with chops that range from pumped-up rockabilly to ZZ Top stingers. The rest of the band cooks in all styles, from the new wave bounce of “Blauu” and the chickenscratch hip-hop of “Mudhouse” all the way to the sleazy/rootsy metallic-blues of the morbidly funny title track.


“Hung my momma from a telephone pole / Cause she baked my pa into a casserole / Born to be the king of rock and roll / 125,000 years old!”


I don’t know if this cool-ass literate funky weird sardonic soulful stuff will ever break through in a massive way; I’m kind of guessing not, because he’s just too cool to be mass-market. But I’ve been wrong before, and maybe America will come through for Bob Schneider. But he deserves a large and insanely passionate indie cult at the very least. Y’all can get in line behind me.

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