The Latest Toughs: Pataphysics, Keeper, Wrestlers and More


by Nick HanoverLatest Toughs

If you live in Austin then you already know there’s too much damn music to keep track of. And sometimes you just want to sift through it in bite-sized chunks. We totally understand. Allow us to introduce you to The Latest Toughs, five tracks from five bands to get you up to date and make each of your workdays a little easier.

Pataphysics- “You Risk”

Recently, Pataphysics put up their entire back catalog on Bandcamp (including side projects like the wondrous Barf Bag) and I’ve been revisiting their material as well as finally tuning in to things I missed out on the first time around. One of the pioneers of this decade’s weird wave in Austin, the band has the chaotic genrehopping tendencies of early Roxy Music but with all the fat trimmed out, like, literally so, as the band’s newest release My Phone’s About to Die proves in its adherence to a very strict three minutes or under policy with runtimes. That doesn’t stop them from navigating every conceivable style of ’70s music  throughout My Phone’s About to Die, with “You Risk,” the track I have the hardest time saying no tom taking top honors for frequent style miles. The base foundation of the track leans Split Enz, a gloriously cheesy synth line rubbing hips with a clean but funky guitar lick while hiccupy vocals pose and posture, getting nasty in the chorus, shouting “You! Risk! Too Much!” over punk blasts. Then the mix opens up, everything calms down and gets rock opera-y, bridging back to the verse with the aid of a “Rock Lobster” like instrumental interlude. Maybe Pataphysics keep their tracks so short because they know you’ll have to play them at least a dozen times to catch everything.


L-Theanine “What’s Happening”

A crosscountry collaboration between Austin’s Willing and New Jersey’s Sadsic, L-Theanine caught my ear because in Willing’s flow and Sadsic’s twisty, otherworldly beats I detect genetic imprints of old Anticon, that era when it birthed a lot of future legends who were then ambitiously reaching for musical powers far above them. L-Theanine’s debut EP is titled Cap Metro 7, a reference to the only decent busline in Austin, and the tracks have the feeling of aimless, frustrated transit thoughts, experimental and ponderous, not quite sure of where they want to go. But for proof that this duo is actually heading somewhere, look no further than “What’s Happening,” the EP’s m0st potent moment, where Willing’s wordy flow gets smooth and melodic, in love with the liquidity of language rather than cerebral intent. “What’s Happening” is pointedly declarative, not asking a question but making a demand of your time, letting you know that this is what’s happening, this is one possible future path of Austin hip hop. I suggest you listen up.


Chief and TheDoomsdayDevice- “Cornflower Blue”

A more veteran Austin hip hop acting than L-Theanine, Chief and TheDoomsdayDevice is nonetheless just as unique, albeit in a totally different manner. A one man band, Chief’s live shows have a lot more intensity than the bulk of his peers, both because of his visceral, hard hitting sound and the unusual use of the titular Doomsday Device itself, a red box that sits center stage, unleashing waves of jagged sounds. Chief sometimes struggles to get the full power of that raw live sound across in his recordings, but “Cornflower Blue” off Chief’s new LP Transition Man is maybe the closest he has come to communicating his live sonic assault. Rocked by a titanic drum loop and a smoky organ line, “Cornflower Blue” is also features an especially clear vocal performance from Chief, making every line hit with laser precision as he details “inmates in a prison of hate” who “Create noise similar/To what the sinister make.” I’m still holding out hope for another team-up between Butcher Bear and Chief, as Bear brought out an unheard of melodic edge in Chief’s flow, but there’s no denying the punch Chief packs when he’s operating at peak efficiency as he is here.


Slow Hop- “Sixteen”

Ever wonder what might have happened if Jonathan Richman had gone out west and started the Modern Lovers in LA instead of the Northeast? Maybe it’s because they’re a new group springing up in Austin, a kind of neutral ground between those two poles, but Slow Hop have me dreaming of that alternate reality with their track “Sixteen.” The simple, emphatic rhythm and insistent adolescent urges of the vocals convey the kind of hormonal battles Richman so loved to illustrate in his songs, but there are hints of the ramshackle grandiosity of latter day California power pop acts, like Grandaddy and Irving. This ain’t the same “Sixteen” The Stooges chronicled, it’s more awkwardly angry, endearing in its inability to channel all those urges into anything resembling a cause. That also makes it more genuine to my ears than any post-Stooges teen stomp, clumsy and listless yet hypnotic in its warts and all presentation.


Keeper- “Next to Me (Wrestlers Remix)”

I’m honestly kind of surprised it took this long for someone to give Keeper a House makeover. Houston’s Wrestlers seized the day here, bringing Austin’s premier vocal trio’s soulfulness to the forefront over a springy beat and some perfectly timed drops. The original “Next to Me” was an interesting mix of late ’90s disjointed R&B and sly hints of House style, but Wrestlers have done more than just amplify that latter tendency, they’ve rewritten the basic DNA of the track, making it a summer jam rather than an icy respite from the heat.

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