Music Reviews

Artist: Hyperbubble (@)
Title: Western Ware
Format: CD
Label: Fellowshipwreck (@)
Rated: *****
Well, it had to happen sooner or later. San Antonio synthpop duo Jeff and Jess DeCuir have finally put out a Country Western album. Yep pardners, you heard me right- we got both kindsa music here- country AND western. YEE HA! It was recorded in Nashville but there ain't one geetar, banjo, mandoleen, or fiddle on the whole durn thing. But there are dozens of them thar sythysizers, drum machines and the like. Now I never thought I'd be reviewing a C&W album here, and this genre is right up there with rap and hip hop on my shit parade, but with enough beers, steers and queers, and a heapin' helpin' o' nitrous oxide, I guess I can keep an open mind (tongue planted firmly in cheek). After all, it is synthpop at its core.

The band sashays through 10 tunes on 'Western Ware' - mostly covers of country classics (sort of), from Arlie Dufff's "Y'All Come," to Dave Grusin's "The Electric Horseman." Okay, well the latter is more like country-disco than country-western, but what the hay. Hyperbubble fans are mostly used to Jess being the voice of band, but on this album Jeff cleans up rather nicely as lead vocalist on a good number of tracks. Remember Freddy Weller's "Bar Wars"? It was a #32 hit for him back in 1978, mostly due to the Star Wars craze but Jeff does this one proud. Not so sure about Leon Russell's "Queen of the Roller Derby" which lacks a bit of that Russell Texas barrelhouse funk, but the backing vocals by Aleah Metzger Hendricks are mighty fine. Then there's that Hoyt Axton chestnut, "Boney Fingers" where Jess and Jeff duet. Reminds me a bit of Spell (Rose McDowall and Boyd Rice) in a Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra sort of way. Speaking of Rose McDowall, Strawberry Switchblade is the only synthpop band I ever heard cover Dolly Parton's "Jolene," until now. Not sure which version I like better. They both have their charm. Jess may not the same country cred as Norma Jean, but she does turn out a credible version of "Truck Driving Woman." One song in this genre I've always hated is "Rhinestone Cowboy". Somehow Hyperbubble makes their uptempo version of it somewhat palatable. One fail though is the cover of Porter Wagoner's maudlin "The Rubber Room," a poor choice for a supposedly feel-good album like this. I can think of numerous other selections that might have been better, such as Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Remember 80's synthpop band Our Daughter's Wedding? ("Lawnchairs," if you need a hint.) Well Hyperbubble cover their "Digital Cowboy" instrumental with Scott Simon from the band on lead synth. It's okay nostalgia but it won't make your heart sing or nothin' like that. Some of the choices of material on 'Western Ware' could have been better, then again, it could have been worse. I can live with what they's a givin' ya. I think overall, the album starts with a bang and kinda ends with a whimper. Some of these tracks just may make it onto (non-mainstream) radio playlists just for the novelty, and that ain't a bad thing a'tall. I just hope this is a one-off, and not the new direction of Hyperbubble.

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