CD and Book Reviews

Hot CDs

Austin immigrant Bob Mould made two solo records after the breakup of his first band, Hüsker Dü; now the demise of his latest band, Sugar, has led to a third. Self-produced, entirely self-played, and unassumingly self-titled, the Rykodisc release finds Mould’s somber vocals and crystalline guitar lines meandering from the quietly dramatic to the mildly aggressive. It offers substance and intensity instead of sonic wallop, favoring emotion over motion and brooding over pop smarts. . . . Crash Landing in Teen Heaven (Caroline), the sophomore effort from Austin’s Sincola, is a sharp spray of art-pop shrapnel from a wonderfully batty band. The sturdy, hook-laden songs are stretched and spun in a vortex of sweet-and-sour guitars and hyperactive rhythmic precision. And singer Rebecca Cannon displays a giddy blend of anger, seductiveness, psychosis, and innocence; she’s the crash landing and the teen heaven. JASON COHEN

Where did tejano music come from? The answer can be found on Tejano Oldies, Volume One and Volume Two (Lago), the most comprehensive retrospectives of the progressive, brass-driven onda sound of the sixties, seventies, and eighties. Volume Two is particularly good, covering everything from the Sunglows’ “Beer Barrel Polka” to the Royal Jesters’ vocal harmonizing on “Chicanita” and Augustine Ramirez’s romantic “Que Chulito Estas.” JOE NICK PATOSKI

 

Second Coming (Proud) is the first album in twenty years from Dallas rhythm and blues journeyman Bobby Patterson , who’s been stirring up cult interest since Golden Smog covered his 1972 gem “She Don’t Have to See You (To See Through You)” last year. If anything, Patterson has improved with age. His sly story-songs illuminate relationships good and bad and are remarkably free of clichés. Powered by a surging, brassy band, he boasts an impressive vocal range and deft phrasing, tenderly caressing one lyric while hoarsely roughing up another. JOHN MORTHLAND

Hot Books

Louise Redd ’s first novel is a beaut. The Austin writer’s Playing the Bones (Little, Brown, $21.95) centers on an inimitable Texas heroine, Lacy Springs, who employs adultery, therapy, and random car trips to come to grips with deep-rooted childhood wounds. The book is suffused with the blues, mental as well as musical; even the dialogue is lyrical, with sweaty, heartfelt outpourings punctuated by antiphonal counterpoints. And talk about Texas—Jack Ruby, red Jell-O, Neiman Marcus, a deer-car collision, and the Rothko Chapel all work their way in. . . . In Requiem for a Glass Heart (Doubleday, $23.95), Austin’s David Lindsey thinks globally but plots locally: A Russian assassin (drop-dead gorgeous) and a Houston-based FBI agent (golly G-womanly) each scheme to topple an international crime lord. The novel lacks a satisfactory denouement, but Lindsey still excels at subtly heightening tension, and he has soft-pedaled much of his trademark guts-and-gore. It’s a suspenseful, savvy, and occasionally sapphic effort. ANNE DINGUS

Hot Art Scene

Taos, Texas: That’s what old-timers and newcomers alike have taken to calling Ingram, a tiny Hill Country town that has lately become one of the Southwest’s hippest art colonies. In the past year an influx of outsiders from the Gulf Coast, West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado has put down roots there, including muralist Jack Feagin, painter Roy Lee Ward, blacksmith Richard Ross, cedar sculptor Roy Hamari, and bronze artists Tom Moss, Don Hunt, and Lloyd Woodbury (whose Spirit of the Horse is pictured at right). They love the community’s thriving arts groups—from the Kerrville Art Club to the Guadalupe Water Color Group—but they especially love the laid-back atmosphere. “There are no crowds, no noise, no traffic, no glitzed-up tourists, and no pretentions,” Moss says. “You can do your own thing at your own pace.” KATHY LOWRY

Hot CD-ROM

If you can’t remember the past, SkyTrip America (Discovery Channel Multimedia, $39.95) is a good way to repeat it. Geared to ages nine and up, this new release by Austin’s Human Code is an encyclopedic history of North America from the time of the Hopewell nation 30,000 years ago. The readings are short, and there are lots of pictures and video clips, as well as games (like Kesitse, a sort of Native American shell game) and voice-overs from celebrities such as basketball star Chris Webber. And SkyTrip pulls no punches, offering frank discussions of issues like segregation and the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Finally, a CD-ROM for kids that doesn’t treat them like children. JOSH DANIEL

Hot Hangout

Houstonians who have outgrown Marfreless—the most romantic make-out spot of the boom years—now have a suitable alternative in the form of B-Bar, the creation of Boulevard Bistrot owner Monica Pope. A cozy collection of intimate corners, overstuffed chairs, and comforting hues—wall painter Joanne Brigham looked to the shades and designs of kimonos for inspiration—this cocktail lounge is the perfect place to enjoy hip but nonintrusive music (world beat, evocative of Pope’s sophisticated cuisine next door), seductive lighting, and the chance to be alone without really being . . . alone. MIMI SWARTZ

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