Music

The Hickoids Devour Brit Hits!

The Hickoids' new album of cover songs is a mangy new chapter in the Texas group's pantheon, replete with roiling rockers from the sweltering 1960s and 1970s in tow.

For three dizzying decades, the Hickoids have been the cream of the crop of Texas musical rowdiness, stirring up cowpunk hootenannies, take-no-prisoners satire, and mutant twang and southern rock ’n roll. In fact, the Hickoids invoke their own genre, since they fit no categories, nor do they feign to fit any trends. They are alone, like cyclones, and this time they seek mayhem right smack dab in the middle of British Invasion standards culled from the Who, Rolling Stones, and Elton John on their new covers album Kicking It With the Twits.

The bluesy, laid-back harmonica hollerin' of “Pictures of Lily” yanks the Mod hipness of the Who out from underneath Pete Townshend’s shaggy hairdo and injects whiskey-breath swaggers that wallow in stupor and stomp. It’s careening, not calculated, and charged-up as any San Antonio roadhouse could muster. In more up-tempo flair, they tackle “Have You Seen You Mother Baby, Standing in the Shadow?” with organ bliss-outs and slapdash honky-tonk, kickin’ round the Mick Jagger territory with fine form, single-handedly making the dusty Rolling Stones 45 record feel re-animated in their raw hands.

Pumping up each tune with plenty of aplomb, they ain’t no limp cover band but more like ruckus rousers, using each tune to slay boredom, especially in the digital era of iTunes plastic perfection. They are guerrilla fighters dabbling in analog anarchy, turning the Move’s “Brontosaurus” from a bass-heavy, funky piece of soul rock into a shimmering electric glam-rock meltdown. You can feel the tight polyester pants explode as singer Jeff Smith’s hips undulate. Continuing in that Top of the Pop vein, they snag their hooks on “Gudbuy T’ Jane”, a dirty slab of bubblegum rock from Slade that rollicks and rolls close to the bone of the original.

However, “Bennie and the Jets” from once-lurid Elton John, a song that is a saucy staple of the Hickoids’ slinky live shows, undergoes deep transformation, ending up like tobacco-packed country rock with David Bowie overtones. It invokes swaying stadiums, stoned fans grasping lighters flung into the humid night, and beer-sloshed singalongs. Slow as molasses, deeply grooved, and loud as Alice Cooper, they engineer it to near-perfection.

I never quite understood the Clash’s longtime affection for Mott the Hoople, but at least the Hickoids make “Whizz Kidd” feel as American as Schlitz beer. It becomes a white trash opus, swooning in pedal steel guitar and woozy keyboards. They quickly move forward, though, to “Needles in the Camel’s Eye”, turning the rather artful, Velvet Underground-ish Brian Eno tune into a pounding, voluminous balls-out rocker.

To wrap up their toxic mixology, they wield a tough-as-nails version of the Damned’s “Neat, Neat Neat”. Slowing it down, they layer echoey vocals, add buzzsaw guitar riffage, and basically make it a mobile home worthy American shitkicker ready for all-night porch parties. Just recall sludgy Mudhoney records you once yanked to your heart with grubby paws.

Kicking It With the Twits is a mangy new chapter in the Hickoids’ pantheon, replete with roiling rockers from the sweltering 1960s and 1970s in tow. Still crankin’ hits, this time from the jukebox in Dixie-on-acid style, they have reloaded the freak van, donned stinky hot pants, and raised their howls in this newfangled world of redux New Wave, fake soul music, and overwrought cheesy pop. You may not grasp their humor or sincere stabs, but they carry on, regardless, like sexed-up soldiers of the dank Lone Star night.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

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Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

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