Summer is on its last gasp, and school is back in session.
While the relaxing lazy days are past and homework is back in regular rotation, the local scene has been hitting the books all summer, readying releases at a furious pace.
Here are two recent records from area acts worth a spin, and one that has to be heard to be believed.
The Satans of Soft Rock, ‘Friend of Man and Beast Alike’
Don’t let the hellish moniker scare you off — this debut effort from a loose local supergroup of sorts is downright heavenly. Led by Tony Ferraro, who enlisted a murderer’s row of area talent to flesh out this LP (including Ryan Becker, Petra Kelly, Chris Gomez and Justin Collins, who also doubled as engineer), the Satans of Soft Rock deliver one finely crafted rock song after another.
From the fantastic one-two opening punch of Satanic Verses and King Run-a-Thon through to the oddly poignant Zilda Bootneck and unexpectedly somber Mrs. Hargraves, which falls apart in magnificent fashion, Friend of Man and Beast Alike is an accomplished debut, and one more example of why North Texas is so fortunate to have artists like Ferraro in its midst.
Dru B Shinin’, ‘35’
The Sphere Music Group team burns with an ambition remarkable even in a North Texas hip-hop scene brimming with artists who tirelessly hustle. The label’s latest offering is a unique one: the “Interstate Boyz” trilogy, which pairs Dru B Shinin’ with Young Zeus. Dru’s solo EP 35 is up first, with the pair splitting an EP, titled 35/20, in October and Zeus dropping 20 in December. Each one is produced by EyeJay the Boy, and will feature cameos from A-Roy and Wrex Washington throughout.
“The concept of the trilogy is about life out on the interstate, which is inherently ugly and dark,” Dru tells me. “I guess we hope to not only accurately depict the ugliness you run into out on the interstate, but explain the reasons why somebody would voluntarily choose to live in that ugliness … the hope of making a better life.”
As has become his custom, Dru and his collaborators deftly blend rhymes and sharp sonics to create vivid rap that doesn’t sound like much else around here: Rebirth, in a just world, would dominate radio, while PalmTreePowerMoves evokes West Coast bonhomie from the middle of the country. Even without its impressive backstory, 35 is the latest demonstration of Dru B Shinin’ and his crew’s consummate skill.
Mr. Freak and the Freak Show Band, ‘Mad, [Expletive] Ridiculous Insane’
It’s tough to tell where the schtick stops and the actual band starts with the colorfully monikered Mr. Freak and the Freak Show Band. This is an act, after all, that introduced itself via an email reading like a dispatch from the lunatic fringe (“[Expletive] Metal Rebelling Against the Music Industry of the Elite Religious Ruling Class also in Control of Every Institution on the Planet and have Conspired for Centuries to Enslave the Hearts of Artists and Fans Dependent Upon Music for Life and Supernatural Strength” is how this Arlington act described its sound).
The trio backs up the unhinged attitude on record: “I’ll keep my liberty/And you can keep your change,” spits Mr. Freak near the end of Love Revolution. The five-track EP is a swirl of instrumental chaos — there is the occasional, impressive guitar solo, but it’s often obscured in the mix — and lyrics that probably sound pretty insightful after pounding four or five Pabst Blue Ribbons. Miffed at The Man and in need of a sonic outlet to properly vent your frustration? Have I got the band for you.