The Walking Rock Alphabet: D

After two cold, boring days, I just had to get my fat ass on the sidewalk. These last two days have been well under freezing temps, with godawful wind gusts. Today’s temps are only marginal higher (mid-30’s), but with absolutely no wind it wasn’t too much of a problem to just add another layer. Plus, I discovered that a winter knit cap holds in my ear plugs!
The “D” section actually offered a number of different possibilities, including a handful of long forgotten obscure bands. A request by my buddy Dave on Friday’s Live Ledge made me almost choose the Dashboard Saviors, but eventually I settled on The Draghounds and their 1992 debut album, Last Stop ‘til Ninth Street.
This Austin, MN-based four-piece played in this silly city a number of times in the mid-90’s, usually opening for the Gear Daddies, Austin’s big success story of that time. Yet I preferred The Draghounds. Nothing against Martin Zellar and his band, but the energetic, guitar-oriented attack of The Draghounds was more to my true musical love.
Last Stop ‘til Ninth Street’s first two tracks are the perfect examples. “Boiling Point” is everything I love in three minutes and twenty-one seconds. An early Clash-ish cacophony of guitars merging into a power pop melody. Imagine The Replacements covering The Plimsouls at 45 rpm. 
“Space 1999”, the followup, is similar yet different enough to stand proudly with and against the opener. This time the opening is pure Bob Stinson ‘mats, with a singalong chorus that makes you want to hit replay when it’s over. Together, these two tracks SHOULD have captured the same major labels that had earlier made it to the Spam capital to sign the Gear Daddies.
Instead, the band carried on for a couple more albums, and after the band broke up leader Mike Nikolai spent his life savings on an Amtrak train to that other Austin. The one in Texas, that is, where over the last fifteen years or so he has released a handful of projects with help from members of Son Volt, The Gourds and Damnations.
As I made my way around the neighborhood with this album blasting in my ears, I do have to acknowledge that as good as it is the album could have cut two or three tracks. And I’m not just saying that because a 48-minute album was too much on this cold day! No, I just don’t see the need for the fake blues of “Last Stop” and a couple other tunes in this mid-section of this album, although some of the last 1/3 of the album (“Mad Cap Mama”, “I Would Not Let You Fall”) are almost as fantastic as those monumental opening tunes. 


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