The Houston Cassettes

Bribery Review #7
*The Start Of Something Beautiful: An Introduction To The Houston Cassettes
*I Survived The Renaissance And Other Strange Facts...
*The Closest Space To The Closet Space
*Action First!

The Start Of Something Beautiful: An Introduction To The Houston Cassettes - Bargin Basement 2001.
Rating = 7

The concept of the Bribery Review: You send me four dollars and every CD or tape your band has ever recorded. I review them and send you a copy of one of the world-famous Mark Prindle homemade CDs of original songs by me, Mark Prindle.

The Houston Cassettes is a power duo featuring Lukas Tester and D.W. Mono who create a keyboard/fake drum/guitar blend of early Pavement, Guided By Voices and The Fall -- catchy, fake British pop/rock musique! Like the Kinks! Astonishingly prolific, proficient and protracted, The Houston Cassettes (Or “THC,” for short. Yeah, I didn’t laugh either.) are every bit as capable of squeezing the last remaining bit of fun out of simple melodic guitar pop as the bands that they resemble, and do so with pleasing-as-hell regularity on this CD. From the genuinely funny humor of short novelty tracks like “Computing” and “Lil’ Monday Night” to the perfect pop craftsmanship of unforgettable singalongs like “Psychedelic Grandfathers,” “Leather Cat” and “Holy Trinity Of Cabbies,” The Houston Cassettes are a refreshing reminder that there is still undiscovered songwriting talent out there just waiting to be accepted and then spit out like an old shoe by fickle college kids. Who, um… eat old shoes. I guess.

It’s not perfect though, or at least not perfectly suited to my tastes. I can’t help but squirm uncomfortably in my high-voltage chair at the weak “cool” displayed in weak one-string fuzz “rockers” like “Sugar Free,” “Highway Robbery” and “Robots Need Clothes.” Pretentious Robert Pollard shit like “Phase 3: The Senior Campus” doesn’t quite rub jam on the sandwich of my society either. Mark Prindle doesn’t need overserious pop aspirations or fake cool. What I demand, desire an’ denjoy are smart vocal melody (all over the place on this cd) and hilarious shit like “I Am The President,” which ends with one of the guys getting way too close to the mic and shouting “woo hoo!” while in the background the other one admonishes, “Don’t yell.”

I’m not sure how one would go about purchasing a CD by these guys, but I recommend doing it, however it might be done. Maybe write a letter to America and see if these guys get it.

Reader Comments (Greg Bougopoulos)
First off, I would like to say that anyone who would like a copy of this cd, email me, The Admiral, at or Luke at . My role in this whole project is that, as a friend and auxilary member of the group, I converted the songs from tape to cd through my computer. This cd was also compiled by me, from a choice of over 200 songs. This is only the first in a planned series of albums.

I should say some things about the cd in response to Mark's negative comments. While it is fine for Mark to not like the "pretentious Robert Pollard shit," to accuse the band of trying to be cool in songs like "Sugar Free" is ludicrous. Luke, who played most of the guitar on here, CAN'T PLAY GUITAR! He used one string on his untuned guitar because he couldn't and can't play chords. He and D.W. would've wanted actual rockers. In fact, now that the group has expanded into an actual band, some of these are going to be rerecorded to actually rock in the strict sense. The original duo, however, were just making music. They care more about their own creative visions than about desperately trying to stay simple and amateurish. In other words, treat many of the guitar-based songs as DEMOS, rather than completed works.

We were happy to hear that Mark liked most of the album though, and it is interesting to report that my choices for the album were less humorish than most of the rest of the group's catalog. The boys are far from overserious about their music, and any pretentions they have are for the most part intended so as an elaborate joke/homage. I hope a lot of you contact me or Luke to get the cd or cds. They shouldn't be more than $3 or $4 each. (Sean 2)
I saw these guys melt through walls once.

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I Survived The Renaissance And Other Strange Facts... - Bargain Basement 2001.
Rating = 7

They're at it again!!!! And by "again," I mean "three years ago," which is when this stuff was recorded. I suppose the stuff on their first CD might be that old too. If you want to know for sure, you'll have to ask their pal Greg Bougopolous, who is compiling all of these handy-dandy CDs!

Okay, so forget the Pavement and Guided By Voices references, because they are NOT here. This sounds like two guys with very little musical talent (but melodic creativity out the zippidy-doo!) having a hell of a lot of fun with a keyboard. Pre-programmed keyboard jingles, bouncy fake drums and lots of simple but wonderful little happy-tones topped with repetitive, infectious lyrics like "Saturday Morning Cartoon Riot! (repeat five billion times)" and "If you're feeling chewy and you want some gum - THERE YOU GO, DUDE! THERE YOU GO!" The singer doesn't sound the least bit pretentious on any of these songs - he just sounds like a goofy, sarcastic kid who has a great mind for vocal melody but doesn't all that much care if the actual notes are hit. Somehow this works though! He just sounds like a guy you'd want to hang out with. There are some awfully cute, smart (in my mind) little tricks too -- like speed-manipulating that annoying "phone off the hook" noise as the music to a song, and speeding up a tape of a spoken poem/song and doubling, in normal speed voice, just a few select phrases during the course of the proceedings. Silly stuff, sure, but really tons of fun and very often catchy too. I don't think I'd say that, as a whole, this CD is necessarily stronger than the first one because, as unpretentious as it is, a lot of the songs are so underwritten that there's just not much to rave about. "Destiny!," "Go Fantasy Go!," "Losing It" I mean, they're OKAY, but not stellar pieces of young person songcraft like "The Universal Blindside," the lyrically mesmerizing "Look At My Buckle Shoe" and the instrumental wonderfeast "You Are Four." There are also a few songs that darn near suck the ears off my head - and not in a good, fellatio way either! "The Free Range Babies," for example, is built around ear-harming distorted fake drums and a melody that just doesn't make you want to sit around waiting for Godot.

Oh no! Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead!

Anyone for a Zoo Story?

Reader Comments (Greg Bougopoulos)
Yeah, this is definitely the silly Houston Cassettes album. And while it doesn't stand with the debut due to a few lackluster songs ("Nearest Nation"? bleah!), I love it so. "Museum of Hair" and "Bullshit Hayride" are brilliant 'songs', but I go for "The Universal Blindside", "Destiny!" (a fine Neverending Story-ish track) and the immortal "There You Go Dude." And if "Zoe, I Love You" is intended as a joke, it still comes across as incredibly sincere and wonderful. An 8 for this one.

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The Closest Place To The Closet Space - Bargain Basement 2001.
Rating = 5

Ehh... Once again, I feel like I'm listening to a cheap Guided By Voices knockoff. The hilarious jokes and catchy keyboard antics are mostly missing from this one, leaving just the one-string guitar thwacking and way too many old. simple, overused 3-note riffs. Certainly there is catchiness here, but not nearly as much as on the first two. And the overblown but not particularly catchy Robert Pollard-style vocal lines wear thin superquick.

But then again, I don't like Guided By Voices. If you do, and that kind of third-generation Kink-ism is your athletic cup of tea, then perhaps you will enjoy this LP as much as I enjoy the first two!

Reader Comments (Greg Bougopoulos)
All right, so this album isn't as blatantly a funny album. However any album that starts off with the lyric 'I'm travelling/in a large oval/not unlike an egg' doesn't take itself too seriously. Also, I don't really hear GBV much on here, except for "Desert Song" maybe. More Pavement, as on "Awkward Divinity Caper": compare the melodies of 'Door/open up the door/like you've never known before' to 'How about the voice of Geddy Lee/how did it get so high', etc. Still, way more Houston Cassettes then anyone else. Also, hardly one-string, due to the "guest artistes" who provide chords on the majority of the guitar tracks. Bullshit? Yeah, this album has plenty of that. Though in a great way. Another 8.

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Action First! - Bargain Basement 2001.
Rating = 6

If I haven't made this clear, let me make this clear. THC have two types of songs: catchy Casio keyboard silliness (my preferred type) and one-string guitar riffs backed with uptempo fake drums (sometimes good, sometimes bad). This CD has a ton of both - 29 tracks total and it gets a little tiring after a while. Not that I'm one to talk, what with my cramming 57 songs on my own 74-minute CDs, but the difference is that I record songs that I like. The Houston Cassettes only record songs that THEY like, and what good is that to me? They should be thinking about my needs, loves, hopes and fears. At all times. And stop all the goddamned "ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-da-da-da-da-da" Pavement vocal shit. I HATE that crap!

Has lots of great songs anyway. "I'm Selling Dogs On The Internet Now," "You Are Fired," -- they're not humorous (why is only the second CD humorous? Odd), but they're so catchy, you'll spill your chili all over my pants if I know you. They also do a couple of unexpectedly gentle, beautiful, almost Spiritualized-style ethereal organ tunes -- "Susie-Anna" and "Forever Yesterday" -- that soothe the spirit like a million "Renegade Nest"s will always only fail to do. There's really only so many different things you can do on one string. And this fellow finishes them up about halfway through the disc!

Can ya dig it? Yeah! Can ya dig it? Yeah! Can ya dig it? Yeah! Can ya dig it? Yeah!

Does anybody else have that Napoleon XIV CD? I love that fluffin' thing.

Reader Comments (Greg Bougopoulos)
Now, I should mention that the after the first album, Luke chose the songs for the cds. So, in all honesty I probably wouldn't have compiled this album the way it ended up. Precisely because of what Mark mentioned: after the first half the album runs out of ideas. Or does it? Well, it appears that way. See, the first half has a lot of newer stuff, like in the past year. The second half has a lot of older songs. And it makes the album frustrating the first few times listening to it because of this. Heck, I know the songs extremely well and the order affected me. Still, the sprawl of the album (in theory the group's messy double album) eventually comes together. Most of the great songs reside on side 1, but the band's history and identity reside on side 2. Of course, tastes are different as you've illustrated Mark. Try to envision the one-string songs with three chords. Ah, you like that, don't you?! See how great the songs really are! So, the low 8 I'm giving it makes sense.

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