by Nick Hanover
I trust that you’ve got a pretty good handle on Austin’s rapid exponential growth without me needing to cite a specific stat. You probably see it all around you on a constant basis, the crumbling streets, the rising housing costs, the influx of dense living structures. We mostly treat all that as annoyances, signs that nothing stays golden forever and the ratio of cool weirdos to start-up prospecting yuppies is swiftly tilting the latter’s way. But a thriving city has its perks and for all the doomsday predictions around estimated music sector job losses, the Big Bill-curated compilation Slack Capital is solid evidence supporting the right kind of growth, the kind that allows 20 bands of varying sounds to come together and highlight the new Austin. Or as Big Bill puts it “Oh, you got wanderlust? That’s ‘cuz yer city sucks.”
Growth is everywhere on Slack Capital, ranging from the evolution of some of the bands’ sounds to more cynical takes on Austin’s infrastructure problem, like DUMB’s road warrior anthem “I Don’t Wanna Die on I-35.” Many of the bands represented are comparatively newer and one of Slack Capital’s core strengths is in placing these artists alongside the groups that have helped nurture and grow them, making their increase in ability clearer. The newly rechristened Pollen RX, for instance, still have the pop politic ambitions of their early recordings but now they seem to also have a deeper understanding of arrangement, making their “Sand in the Well” contribution one of the highlights of Slack Capital, sounding like a Mekons/The Jam hybrid, brash and tuneful and sensitive in all the right measures.
That said, the most impressive growth on Slack Capital comes from Sailor Poon, the anarchic collective that basically exploded onto Austin music last year with a wave of unpredictable live performances and a seemingly constantly shifting line-up. Sailor Poon’s earlier recordings were fierce and unapologetic, but “Leather Daddy King” adds some killer melodic hooks to the mix, shifting the band’s sound from a brawl in a bar to a riot in the streets, the lyrics clearer and easier to shout along to. And who wouldn’t want to witness the kind of riot that shouts “EAT ME OUT/BUY ME SHOES/MAKE ME COME/THEN PLEASE LEAVE?” in unison? It’s the perfect sentiment of the second decade of the 21st century.
The veterans fare well on Slack Capital too, lest you mistake this for a compilation of strict newcomers. The Zoltars turn in a new version of “I Walk Alone At Night,” transforming the older song into a slinky, Talking Heads-esque paranoid street walking ode rather than the early Cure sounding post-punk number it used to be. Daniel Francis Doyle & the Dreams channel some Modest Mouse guitar work on “What Do You Do With That” before shifting gears to a weirdo twist on blue eyed soul, that majestic croon of his sounding perfectly heartbroken and uneasy. Formerly hazy dream rockers Annabelle Chairlegs seem totally rejuvenated, too, talking about “monster problems” here in “Cementville,” over a spy guitar beat and yips and yelps, finger pointing with style. And then Those Howlings follow-up Mean Jolene turns in the sweetest ode to coke you ever heard in “Sick Obsession,” reminding us that the Slack Capital has more cases of the sniffles than any sunny Texas town ought to.
But Slack Capital’s true anthem comes from its leaders, with Big Bill offering up “Every City,” a live favorite that is just now getting put to tape. A ferocious takedown of the common problem of fantasizing about mythical perfect cities, “Every City” condemns “drone slobs” who wander from town to town bringing down their scenes. “Every city sucks!” is its most common refrain, not because Big Bill are waging a one band war on every location on the map, but because every city has its problems and the ones that blossom have people working tirelessly to improve them at all times, and as Slack Capital capably attests, Big Bill are putting their money where their nasally mouths are, doing their part to show why despite all of its growing pains, Austin is a city worth sticking with.
Slack Capital has a release party tomorrow, Friday, April 15th at Barracuda Big Bill, Basketball Shorts, Annabelle Chairlegs, Pollen RX and a number of other acts from the compilation.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover