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