Alkaline Trio
Tim Berne
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DJ Deep
Futterman/Levin Trio
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The Now Time Delegation
Larry Polansky
Les Séquelles
Sound Team
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sound team
Sound Team

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The Sound Team get the best compliment I can give to an obscure group: when friends come over, I put their CD on and proudly claim I'm in the band. These fellas from Austin have produced one of the coolest, funniest and most relaxed recordings you are likely to hear. Parts of every song seem to catch them at unscripted moments of wild imagination. For example, "Emotional Swings" begins (as do most of the tracks) with a smattering of funny dialogue. Right after a warped version of "Baby Please Don't Go" concludes with a crazy harmonica solo, one guy is heard asking another, "You been reading some Confucius lately?" It helps inspire a hilarious spoken word couplet -- "What does Confucius say about guitar?/"You should rock it like Ozzy" -- that makes the band seem, for me at least, like characters from an early Richard Linklater film. You want them all to be your friends, and to play at your party; you wouldn't even mind it if they archived all their beer piss in the Guadalupe River.

While the record feels like it was made solely to amuse its creators -- the disc comes with trading cards for all of the friends of the band, who helped out with the recording, providing everything from car key jingling to handclaps -- it transcends those small but noble ambitions with consistently great humor ("I found myself a midget/I think his name is Jeeves") that remains funny on second and third listens. It also includes some flat-out lovely music. I could imagine a young Dylan or Townes Van Zandt coming up with "Heed My Words", a talking blues tune that celebrates Gandhi and boxing, while "Song From a Dream" is an American version of a 3 Mustaphas 3 number -- Hong Kong cinema meets alt-country. Their lyrics are consistently dead on ("I got a 12 pack of Keystone/Cleaned out the SkyMart"), and only occasionally less entertaining than you expect them to be. I personally didn't go for some of the simple, nonsensical rhymes ("Cheese whiz/ Show biz" and "Word up/Beer gut/Say what?", for instance) that pop up apparently at random, but it's very hard to knock a band so wild, carefree, and ambitious.

Sound Team is the only band I know of that can evoke Neil Young immediately before breaking into Dead or Alive's "You spin me round". They're also one of very few that can bring to mind the same musical soundscapes as Zabriskie Point-era Pink Floyd, as they do on the wonderful "Paper Trails". Overall, their most coverable material, like the serious "Jones Street Blues", puts them in the same boat as the many Elephant 6 bands who are so enamored with folk music, but I think I like the Sound Team more. I say this because their music, at this juncture, is far less refined. They refuse to leave out any of their ideas (which means they can occasionally suck, as in the old-school scratching "Peace"), so you end up with a band you can't pin down to any genre or movement. They are delightfully amateurish, willing to appropriate any melody or lyric worth stealing, but even more delightfully gifted. Their own compositions sound so fresh, laid back and pleasant that you get the impression of an Austin band who could live more for the horses, the country and the belly laughs than for those depressing clubs where so few midgets hang out.

-- Theodore Defosse
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