Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Hickoids' "Kicking It With the Twits"

Scratch an American rockaroller above a certain age and you're bound to find an (at least closet) Anglophile. If the '63-'66 Brit Invaders didn't exactly re-introduce the kids of America to their R&B heritage, they at least reminded 'em of it, and had long hair to boot. Then, as the '60s gave way to the '70s, they pulled glam and punk (we could debate for hours who originated punk, but for argument's sake, let's just say that it was a parallel development, with some distinctly English variants) out of their hats, to our great benefit. Bless them.

Now San Antonio's Hickoids -- Mission City cowpunks who've been treading the boards since the late '80s, familiars of Stash Dauber faves Tex Edwards and the Me-Thinks, fronted by Saustex Media honcho Jeff Smith -- have released a new album (on lovely vinyl as well as CD and digital download) that repays the debt with eight covers of rockin' toons that boast Brit origins.

The songs appear in roughly chronological order. The Who's "Pictures of Lily" -- a corker of a song about jerking off to pics of Lillie Langtry; _you_ tell me why this wasn't a Stateside hit back in '66 -- benefits from the addition of some Mickey Raphaelesque harmonica and twangy guitar, as well as J. Smith's idiosyncratic phrasing; was he having trouble reading the lyrics? _You_ decide! The Rolling Stones' '67 smash "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In the Shadow" is recast here as an organ-driven romp, as though Augie Meyers had been unleashed in the studio.

The Hickoids' take on the Move's "Brontosaurus" relies on layers of wah-wah guitars in the same way the 1970 original did on its uber-heavy bass line for its auditory impact. Not enough 'Meercuns today remember Slade -- the loudest band I ever heard in my life, opening for J. Geils at NYC's Academy of Music (the Noo Yawk audience _hated_ 'em) -- but the Hickoids' cover of "Gudbuy T' Jane" makes up in rawkin' Texas energy for what it loses in football hooliganism from the 1972 'riginal.

"Bennie and the Jets," a highlight of Elton John's big-sunglasses-and-platforms heyday, pits keening pedal steel against grungy guitar growl to good effect. Mott the Hoople was the band my no-'count high school cohort and I used to play air guitar to even after some of us actually learned to play, and their 1973 album Mott was their heart-on-sleeve loser apotheosis. Smith & Co. bravely chose "Whizz Kid," one of that album's more maudlin numbers, to drag through the River Walk mud, and they do it up fine.

I have fewer associations to go with "Needles In the Camel's Eye," a highlight of Brian Eno's Here Come the Warm Jets, but the Hickoids pound away at it in suitably minimalist fashion, then close the proceedings with the Damned's "Neat Neat Neat," a song I've been playing with the little Stoogeband for the past couple of years. The Damned were fustest with the mostest, English punk-wise; they released their LP before any of their first-wave cohort (February 1977), and they didn't seem to take themselves as seriously as most of 'em did -- a plus in my book.

The Hickoids are the same way: they rawk hard, with a Texas twang and a lope in everything they do, tongues firmly planted in cheeks. Heap big fun, this is.


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