Reviewing local CDs can be a sad pleasure. Bands around here tend to ride out of town on those shiny little wheels.
To wit: Tarkio (six-track swan song, Sea Songs for Landlocked Sailors, released just in time for departure of lead singer/songwriter Colin Meloy last autumn) and similar parting words from Penumbra (although a slightly reshuffled lineup is still playing under the sobering Norse sobriquet of the Gustufsons) and the Banned (who never really broke up, but who for the past three years have been living in the crepuscular limbo reserved for those Missoula bands past and uncertain future who play reunion shows once a year around Christmas). And now, having paid the ferryman once he got them to the other side, the following bands are either on permanent hold or basically done for on account of this year’s rash of departing members: Cicada (Josh Henderson in Texas), Mike and Rick (Joe Mudd at Harvard), the Evaders (Chris Baumann in Alabama, Brian Overland at Columbia, Pat Robins in Spain) and side projects too numerous to mention.
Ah me, I get misty thinking about it. But at least each of those bands had the good sense to leave a digital last will and testament. Here’s a brief look at what we have to remember them by, as well as a too-short summary of new recordings from those bands and musicians still among the living. As a personal aside to transplanted Missoulians in Denver, San Marcos and wherever else, as well as the recently band-deprived bros they left behind in Missoula: You know there ain’t no Where Are They Now file in this office—only stacked plastic annals of past glory neatly committed to posterity.
Cicada:night after night
First up: Cicada, who couldn’t have left on a sweeter note than the10-song Night After Night. Raucous, loud and full as a tick, Night After Night didn’t quite hit the streets in time to recommend scene tyros to the live show, so if you never saw Cicada you’ll just have to take my word for it that the disc doesn’t require any grand reconciliation between the live/studio prongs of the Missoula band duality. Surprising, perhaps, for a band that eschewed recording for its own sake (guitarist Henderson flatly told the Independent last year that he saw no point in releasing dashed-off tracks just for the cachet of having something out), but well worth the wait. It’s all in there: the gang vocals, the surly bass tone, and a couple cherry specimens of bassist Aron Flanagan’s tortured yelp on the opening “Luv Mumphin.” In other words: everything you wanted in a Cicada show, except with repeat and music search capability!
The nearly 30 tracks that Mike and Rick laid down at Bevel this summer wouldn’t even fit on one CD, and so must be released in two forthcoming installments that, with any luck, will be toasting nuts by many a Missoula fire in time for the Christmas reunion season. Fans of Mike and Rick’s uniquely garden City supercalistoneriffic arena rock extravagance (they wrote the Missoula anthem, you know: “Sunset on Evaro”), as well as folks who just plain dig Fu Manchu, are heartily recommended to Tra-Bang!’s In the Name of ‘Chu, a humorlessly perfect seven-song tribute to the current gods of gas-guzzling stoner rock. But therein lies the humor, I suppose: It takes nuts that clank to record a facsimile of a band currently at the height of their popularity, and if In the Name would have been an iota less exacting in its homage, it would have just been sad. As it stands, though, it’s bong-evaporatingly awesome, another ripping Bevel recording, and all your faves are on it, including “The Falcon Has Landed” and a sweaty six-minute “Pigeon Toe.” Tra-Bang! didn’t last long enough to wear out the joke, either, disbanding after just two shows.
While others soldier bravely on: After two solid CD releases, Hiper Lopro (fronted by Bevel partner Hank Donovan) still don’t get anything approaching the recognition they deserve in Missoula. Contrary to what you might hear, all original local music doesn’t fit in equally at certain local venues that purport to cater almost exclusively to it. Like fellow locals Shelterbelt, Hiper Lopro exist without a particular roost to call their own: lacking that certain something that endears other, often lesser-talented bands of all stripes to Jay’s crowds but not really at home anywhere else either. In the studio, at least, Hiper Lopro are masters of their own destiny. How to Track a Tornado boasts a sturdy brace of meat-and-potatoes tunes that, if they want for anything, want for a squirt or two of the studio anxiety that squeezes nervous greatness out of bands less comfortable with the studio than Hiper Lopro.