Aural Pleasure

The H!X are a good example of what happens when baby boomers go nuts.

If Claude “Butch” Morgan and his band of rootsy pranksters were in their teens, their healthy absurdist streak would manifest itself in loud, fast, aggressive dissonance and maybe a bit of onstage auto-destruction. But while they’re more than a little bent, the H!X are also traditional and sentimental (not to mention musically accomplished), so they sneak their strangeness into a semi-acoustic package that inevitably pleases alt-country regulars at Casbeers and Luckenbach.

Any H!X fan will tell you that you have to see this quartet in the act to understand them, so it makes sense that their new CD, Really Live, documents the loose, madcap nature of those shows.

Morgan’s humor rears its head on “I Hate Music,” a plea for silence with some ironic guitar heroics in the middle. He also hams it up on “WhatsaMatta,” a slender hook masquerading as a song, by bragging about an amazing guitar lick he’s learned, and then supposedly playing it so fast that everyone misses it. Only slightly more serious are “Eddie,” the tale of a “self-appointed security guard” who spends his life riding around town on a bicycle, and “Blubberball,” in which Morgan invites listeners to watch his body decompose.

The flipside of Morgan’s comic shtick is his earnest singer-songwriter persona, which he showcases on “G-Pa” and “Kingdom.” But he and the H!X are most appealing when they bring levity to their sincerity and determination to their hijinks, as with their cover of James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good).” Clearly in love with the song, the band nonetheless refuses to aproach it with reverence, giddily recasting it as an accordion-driven, conjunto dance number. Without a doubt, these clowns understand their roots.

Gilbert Garcia

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Glasgow’s latest contribution to fun rock pop ’n’ roll is this trio, which originated as the Yummy Fur, which also had future members of Franz Ferdinand in its ranks. Like Franz, 1990s celebrate the fun of going out, being with superficial people and, most importantly, taking recreational drugs. Nearly every song goes out of its way to mention drugs as almost a deliberate way for its characters to fit in with their scene. It can get a bit wearing over the course of an entire album.

Nevertheless, 1990s are a group that not only aspire to the early Britpop of the chosen decade represented in their moniker (Suede guitarist Bernard Butler produced this debut, after all), but they also reach for the 1970s, when it was mandatory for bands to have three brilliant singles already in the public consciousness before they’d ever think of making an album. And Cookies features at least three brilliant singles. In fact, check out the first three songs for that first impression, especially the infectious “You Made Me Like It.” Despite the retro moniker, time is definitely on 1990s’ side.

Serene Dominic

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