Featured Music: Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Black Tie Dynasty
Sat w/Faux Fox, The Lord Henry, and DJ Prince William at The Cavern, 1914 Lower Greenville Av, Dallas. 214-828-1914.

Sat w/The Chemistry Set (c.d. release), The February Chorus, and Clickity Clack at the Aardvark, 2905 W Berry St, FW. 817-926-7814.
Twin Peaks

Rising up over Cowtown, two new full-lengths may help achieve our long-sought-after critical mass.


Maybe three or four years ago, two incredible records released within days of each other by two incredible Fort Worth-based bands would’ve stopped the presses. Actually, back then, two incredible locally forged discs in the same year would’ve been front-page news.

Today, however, the simultaneous arrival of Black Tie Dynasty’s Movements and Calhoun’s eponymous album is just more of the same from a city whose talent pool continues expanding, getting richer, and putting the rest of North Texas — and the country — on notice (bitches!). Speaking, um, purely objectively, this year’s already seen a lot of impressive work, like Green River Ordinance’s The Beauty of Letting Go, Top Secret’s Shhh ..., Stephen Pointer’s Sixes & Sevens, Jhon Kahsen’s Love’s Bitter Rage, and the cut*off’s Rorschach e.p., among others.

The following couple of months will also bestow upon local music lovers’ big-and-getting-bigger heads new full-lengths from Collin Herring, Goodwin, Spoonfed Tribe, and a few more 817 outfits. Almost all of the stuff — future, present, and recent past — is finely wrought. None of that lo-fi garage garbage that takes 45 minutes to record and $50 to press onto a polycarbonate disc. We’re talking mature, professional, original popular music, the kind of tunefulness that transcends both the “local” appellation and geographic bias and makes you got-damn proud to be American!

Seriously, Movements and Calhoun achieve their greatness through different though equally valid means. Black Tie stays true to a single sound (baroque pop) while exploring new ways in which traditional pop songs are structured. Calhoun takes a straightforward approach to structure while playing around with sounds as myriad as country-western, dance, and R&B, in addition to multiple variations on pop-rock. Black Tie looks to the recent past for inspiration, particularly to ’80s New Wavers like The Smiths, Echo & the Bunnymen, and The Cure. Calhoun draws from all over. And while, without ever once cracking a knowing smile, Black Tie manages to pay homage to a type of music that now seems quaint, Calhoun interjects a little self-conscious, self-deprecating humor throughout.

Produced by frontman and primary songwriter Tim Locke with Todd and Toby Pipes at the brothers’ Bass Propulsion Laboratories in Dallas, Calhoun begins the way anyone who’s heard the band would expect, with a slight, somber acoustic guitar. Once the electric, rapid-fire, contrapuntal beat comes in, though, the old countrified Calhoun recedes in the rear-view mirror as something else pops up. The following tune, “Bright Eyes,” may be an artful indictment of the famous, tantrum-throwing, similarly named singer-songwriter, but it’s also one helluva catchy disco-dirge. From a simple, dynamic arrangement of swaying, plucked acoustic riffs, Casio-type beat, and sing-songy vocal melody, the song grows larger and larger until it explodes into a downtempo maelstrom. Over crashing cymbals and guitars, Locke responds to his shouts in a bright, faraway whisper (god bless the miracle of overdubbing). The certifiable college-radio hit of the bunch, “Kick-Drum Mind,” sprinkles fuzzed-out, psychedelic six-string riffage over a snappy rhythm, a sea shanty-like vocal line, and a rollicking Beatles-meets-Beck piano. Locke, former member of the Grand Street Cryers and Blue Sky Black, may be referring to his younger self when he sings: “I got a kick-drum mind / Hollow and out of time / My life’s a garage band / Sloppy with no real plans.”

Movements opens with strong skins, sludgy bass, and shimmering, echoing guitars, and just does not let up. Cory Watson’s masculine yet pretty voice drives everything through changes of mood, sonic scenery, and timbre. The single “Tender” expertly juxtaposes bleakness and light — while the stomping, snapping drums never waver, the twinkling guitars shift on and off neatly as Watson goes from authoritative and staccato during the verses to desirous and fluid during the mammoth, poppy chorus. Nearly as solid and radio-ready is “Lakes,” a bunny hop built on mercurial rhythms; a tall, dark, and handsome vocal melody; and those bright, chiming guitars.

A couple of months, maybe years from now, the Black Tie/Calhoun phenomenon may be what we — and the rest of the country (bitches!) — look back on as a watershed moment for Fort Worth/Tarrant County non-classical, non-jazz music. Are we the next Seattle, circa 1989? No, but not because there ain’t good music here. (Maybe you’ve heard it said in these pages a couple, three, four, 793 times: Cowtown’s lousy with Music-with-a-capital-M.) We won’t be another Emerald City ’cause the days of mega-labels descending upon a specific part of the country and signing every clown with a guitar is dead. The age in which we currently live is that of the career musician. Success is gauged not by two or three solid years and a few stray acknowledgments in Blender, but by years and years of writing, recording, and performing. The new musician may not earn a zillion dollars a year, but he’ll be able to put a nice roof over his head and send his kids to decent schools by just doing what he loves and was born to do — write, record, and perform music.

In a righteous world, Black Tie’s and Calhoun’s new tunes would be ringing from the mountaintops and into everybody’s iPods. OK, maybe we’re a little biased, but the awesome quality of the music is indisputable — absolutely and completely beyond argument. Just as a person with a brain cannot say (in a whiny voice, of course), “You know. Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ simply doesn’t speak to me,” he or she cannot listen to either Movements or Calhoun and say they’re not both fucking brilliant. Seriously.

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