"PETS ROCK"subtitle: "Deep Ellum's bad boys are slowly building a national following"
By Russell Smith
Pop Music column (pp. 1C, 3C), The Dallas Morning News, Tuesday, August 15, 1989
Accompanying photo by Juan Garcia, Dallas Morning News ; its caption read "The Buck Pets, from left: Ian Beach, Andy Thompson, Tony Alba and Chris Savage. The band plays Wednesday at Club Clearview."
© Russell Smith/Juan Garcia and The Dallas Morning News
While Edie Brickell and New Bohemians were exploding like a firecracker stand set off by a spark, another Dallas band, The Buck Pets, lit a slower fuse of its own.
Deep Ellum's other success story may be taking longer to unfold, but The Buck Pets so far have a relatively acclaimed album to their name and a bad-boy image in the making.
"We're not really bad -- we're just honest," says lead guitarist Chris Savage.
"We've gotten into some scrapes, strangled some club owners and stuff," says drummer Tony Alba, "but other than that, we're really nice guys."
The Buck Pets' self-titled first album was released in the spring of '88 ['89???], not long after New Bohemians' now-platinum (million seller) debut. It didn't go to the Top 100 on the pop charts, but has registered prominently in the so-called "post-modern" domain of alternative and college radio, as well as with critics.
"Guns N' Rosebuds," USA Today called the band (which performs on its home turf at Club Clearview Wednesday). A Playboy writer began his review by declaring the album his "favorite hard-rock debut of the year so far" and ended with, "There is nothing I don't like about this album."
The Buck Pets seem less impressed.
"We never really listened to it that much after it came out," says bassist Ian Beach, who's in an Irving rehearsal hall where the band is gearing up for its second Island Records release. A tape of the new Beastie Boys record blares from a jam box in the corner.
"The first album isn't the sound we're after," Mr. Savage says.
What the band wants, he says, is something "a lot warmer, deeper, more three-dimensional. Not as flat, more low-end, more of a natural drum sound."
"There are still good things, good songs, on that album," says singer-guitarist Andy Thompson. "We're just past it."
"We were a bit youngish when we went into the thing," Mr. Savage says. "We had never been in a studio -- all that kind of stuff. We just want this one to be a lot better."
That won't necessarily be easy. The Buck Pets, for one thing, was the perfect album for its time. Just as the heavy metal vogue was giving way to a hard-rock resurgence led by Guns N' Roses, less predictable postmodern rock also began seeping into the mainstream.
The debut album, with its almost seamless amalgamation of buzz-saw guitar, pop melodies and unmistakenly youthful energy, landed the Buck Pets a foot in both worlds. Rather than Guns N' Roses, the bands to which The Buck Pets tends to get compared are metaldom's Metallica and post-punk gods The Replacements.
In any case, The Buck Pets is much too rough and way too loud for mellow yuppies. No one in the group, after all, is much older than 20.
As much a product of the Deep Ellum music scene as were New Bohemians (though it's not likely that the two bands shared many followers), The Buck Pets started younger.
"We hung out there when we were 15 and 16 and started the band when we were 17," says Mr. Savage.
"That time and place was good for bands like us."
Some of those bands, however, bands that had been around longer and perhaps even influenced The Buck Pets, must have flinched a little when the boys signed with Island and took off to record in the Bahamas in early 1988.
"It shouldn't make any difference," says Mr. Savage. "It doesn't make any difference to us. We still live here, and we're still the same people that we were before.
"We're still obnoxious," he says, "but we were that then, so it's no different."
At the same time, The Buck Pets couldn't have helped but notice the spectacle of Ms. Brickell New Bohemians, whose success was snowballing from, from a No. 1 hit and Saturday Night Live to the inside pages of Rolling Stone and the cover of SPIN.
The Buck Pets felt the pressure.
"It might have built it (the pressure) a bit; it certainly didn't relieve it," says Mr. Savage. "It's cool now, though. We saw them in Milwaukee; they came out to see us play. ... She's still a really cool girl."
The Buck Pets took off last year to open 25 shows for Jane's Addiction. ("No lifelong friendship," says Mr. Savage.) With the album being played more and more on college and alternative radio stations around the country and with strong reviews piling up, the band set off a few months ago for a West Coast tour of its own.
The Buck Pets' recent showcase performance at Hollywood's legendary Whisky club sold out, Mr. Savage says, and the crowd included music industry people, as well as ex-Sex Pistol Steve Jones and members of the funk band Fishbone. Island Records was watching, too.
"I guess that meant a lot to them, for you to do big in L.A.," says Mr. Savage.
"There were a bunch of managers that came out to that show to check us out," says Mr. Thompson.
"We had to go meet the guy that manages Bob Dylan and Neil Young and Tracy Chapman," Mr. Savage says. "He wanted to manage us, but he was too much the L.A. type. We're staying away from those."
The Buck Pets' stature with and promotional support from their record company are likely to be bolstered by the band's better-than-expected critical reception and the modest following it's begun to attract around the country.
"It isn't huge," Mr. Thompson says.
"But it's still pretty good for a bunch of hillbillies," Mr. Savage says.
"That's one of the things that showed Island," he says. "They were kind of waiting for the first one (album), to see how it did, playing it safe a little bit. ... They didn't expect it to do as well as they did."
As a result, the band members might expect to exert more control on the next album, a tentative title for which is Saints and Snakes.
"We have to see what it looks like in print first," says Mr. Alba, the drummer.
The band members hope to be ready to record the album by October or November, with a possible release in early 1990.
The musicians express interest in relocating eventually -- to New York or Seattle, perhaps. In the meantime, they'll stay in Dallas -- "until we get paid," says Mr. Savage.
"We just have a good time when we're here," he says. "Boredom causes a lot of things that gives us our reputation. We're not that bad. I guess if you compare us to the other bands that are around, we probably could be called rude, I suppose."
"People don't have a sense of humor," says Mr. Savage. "They think we're stealin' their girlies."
Tequila also has been a source of grief, adds Mr. Beach.
"Yeah," concurs Mr. Savage, "girlies, tequila or no sense of humor. Or a combination."
- Performance information:
- The Buck Pets perform at Club Clearview Wednesday. Last Rites opens the show. Doors open at 9 p.m. For ticket information, call 939-XXXX.
Contributed by Marci Mangham