I think some day soon I'm going to move to Austin. It's been in my blood my whole life, I feel. The music that has always driven me, as well as the family I love, has always come from Texas, and Austin has always been the epicenter of that energy. I recently wrote about Spoon, who sort of inspired this idea of talking about Austin and Texas in general as a hotbed of important music. So here are some bands I want to follow to the heart of the music I've always loved.
Townes van Zandt has only recently become my Bob Dylan. Dylan once inspired me to use my guitar to not just impress girls but to leave my indelible mark on the world without compromise, but then I discovered Townes. He wrote out of an eternal pain that would never be silenced until his death. But he left a mark of beauty on the world with his songs, that as Steve Earle infamously described outweighed that of Mr. Dylan's. When I listen to Townes I think of the sneers and scoffs from so-called intellectuals when they react to my love of my birthplace of Texas. I think of how misguided and stupid they are. I think of "Rake" and how it defines confessional songwriting for generations a million years from now. Townes is my Hank Williams. Townes is my Bob Dylan. Townes is the father I'll never meet, drunk abusiveness and all.
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead:
This band earned acclaim with their album Source Tags & Codes, and then quickly fell into critical damnation with their next two releases. They have always stood firmly as an inspiration for me, however, and with their last release of Century of Self they proved their detractors fools as their epic pop rock structure gave way to a modern opus of discordant rock and roll that showed the world that Muse had no monopoly on Wagnerian-inflected popular music. Their latest track "Isis Unveiled" changed music for the next 10 years even if no one noticed but me.
These guys are from San Antonio, but are overlooked Texas originals nonetheless. True, Michael Azerrad has already chronicled the importance of this band in his seminal post-punk tome Our Band Could Be Your Life, but the majority of the national public writes this band off as that "band who wrote that song about death in Texas." Well guess what. The Flaming Lips, and all those bands that "play psychedelic music through a modern lens" would not exist without the ever-important late-80s recordings of Butthole Surfers. They created freak culture for the 90s through the 2000s, and the next person that tells me their name is stupid and they only had the one good radio hit in the 90s gets a punch in the jaw. They invented sludge, modern psych, they transcended their hillbilly upbringings and for my money inspired every band worth listening to in our generation. Listen to "John E. Smoke" and if you still think this is a novelty band on par with Weird Al we can part ways right now, Philistine.
I have more bands for you, but this will do for now. Sleep beckons to me, it is a dire mistress and I poetically shall couple with she.