Reviews of To The Quick, included with Restless Records' press kit

From The Dallas Observer (June 10-16, 1993)

Words and images © 1993 by the publishers of The Dallas Observer, Gilbert Garcia, and uncredited(?) photographer, as appropriate.

Note: the accompanying photo is a scan of a reduced photocopy of an image that was originally on newsprint; that's all I had to work with.

Cut to the quick

Local releases: Buck Pets, Medicine Show Caravan, Roy Hargrove, Stone Culture

To the Quick
Buck Pets
Restless Records

In a way the Buck Pets always seemed like the misplaced third band in a Minneapolis troika led by the Replacements and Soul Asylum. Like these bands, the Buck Pets have always rocked ferociously, in a manner that took punk as a point of departure but also acknowledged many prepunk titans. The Buck Pets also shared with these two bands a traditional faith in the cathartic and redemptive power of rock, at a time when many so-called "alternative" bands substituted condescending irony for genuine _________. [remainder of column was cut off]

   Maybe the strongest thread between the three bands is that they all had to grow up -- often painfully -- in public. Major-label artists at an age when most people are blithely chanting at pep rallies, the Buck Pets learned the hard way what kind of toll the corporate suits can take on your best musical impulses. So, two years after being unceremoniously dropped by Island Records, the Buck Pets return with a new sense of assurance. a maturity that does nothing to impede their blistering guitar attack. Always a raucous live band, the Buck Pets on To the Quick finally deliver an album loaded with all the emotional desperation of their best shows.

   Ever since their Island dismissal, they've sounded like a band that doesn't want to waste time or beat around the bush. From the opening seconds of "Life [sic] is the Biggest Thing," they cut to the quick with a series of songs that suggest but never mention their career disappointments.

   The album peaks with two of the band's finest songs, the razor-sharp title track and the sorrowful "Nothing's Ever Gonna Be Alright Again." Here, and elsewhere, Chris Savage's rough, impassioned vocals find transcendence behind the heartache. Even when he [sic] sings, "If I could change anything, I'd change everything,'' he sounds completely unbowed, determined to confront every moment as if it's his last.

   Whether tipping their hats to Neil Young with the fuzzy rocker "C'Mon Baby," wedding compassion with explosive sonic fury on "Worldwide Smile," or covering the Who (with a CD-only version of "Bargain" that owes more to Pete Townshend's original demo than the more famous Who's Next version), the Buck Pets never falter on To the Quick.

   Along the way, they refute two solid theories: that maturity and rock 'n roll are contradictory terms, and that rock bands only get worse as they get older.

-- Gilbert Garcia

From Street Beat, in The Dallas Observer (June 17-23, 1993)

Words and images © 1993 by the publishers of The Dallas Observer, Gilbert Garcia, and uncredited(?) photographer, as appropriate.

Note: the accompanying photo is a scan of a reduced and low-quality photocopy image that was originally on newsprint; that's all I had to work with.

Grooves in orbit

The Buck Pets christen the Orbit Room with a release party for their long-awaited new album [June 18, 1993]

By Gilbert Garcia

The timing is purely coincidental. When Emo's owner Eric Hartman decided on a mid-June opening for his new club the Orbit Room, he couldn't have foreseen that the date would perfectly accord with the release of the Buck Pets' eagerly awaited Restless Records debut album.

   But for Hartman, the match couldn't be more perfect. The Buck Pets always draw well at his Austin Emo's, and if he's trying to demonstrate to locals a commitment and respect for Dallas music, what better band could he find?

   The strongest surviving link to the ballyhooed late-'80s Deep Ellum renaissance, the Buck Pets are also a band on a creative roll, amply displayed on To the Quick, their first recorded statement since Island Records issued them pink slips in 1991.

   While in Los Angeles last week to shoot a video for the cathartic rocker "Life [sic] is the Biggest Thing," Buck Pets singer-guitarist Chris Savage took time to discuss some of the public trials endured by his band in the last two years.

   While acknowledging that '91 was "a pretty weird year," for a variety of personal and professional reasons, Savage says the Island bombshell was not as devastating as some might imagine.

   "We felt pretty good to get away from Island," Savage says, "'cause things weren't working out from the second record on anyway. So it kinda gave us a chance to write songs for ourselves more than for some other reason."

   The Buck Pets' assured comeback from the Island episode is particularly impressive because it flies in the face of established music-industry precedent. A rule of thumb among indie-label proponents states that it's fine and natural to start with an indie and subsequently jump to a major label, but that starting with a major and getting dropped can poison your career.

   The Buck Pets shoot holes in this theory simply by making the best, most confident and deeply felt music of their career.

   They regained their footing by quietly playing and writing, without the strain of an arduous road schedule or the pressures of major-label expectations weighing on them. When drummer Tony Alba left the band, Savage's roommate Ricky Pearson -- a guitarist with no drumming background -- helped the band by keeping time, until his human-metronome approach felt so good that he became a permanent member.

   After spending "three terrible months" in Los Angeles recording their second Island album, Mercurotones, the band wanted to get far away from Tinseltown and work with someone who understood their gritty brand of music. They decided on Fugazi producer Ted Nicely.

   "We wanted a punk-rock producer," Savage says. "We knew that the Fugazi record sounded really cool and he wasn't about changing anything to fit anybody's tastes."

   Adding to the interest over this weekend's record-release party will be the christening of The Orbit Room, which follows in the path of Hartman's success with Emo's in both Houston and Austin. Located on the corner of Commerce and Oakland, Orbit Room will benefit from being close enough to other Deep Ellum clubs for easy access but far enough off the Elm Street trail to avoid deterring those who can't handle the weekend crowds.

   The Orbit Room will feature a courtyard flanked by two rooms. The room to the left of the courtyard will contain a jukebox, bar, and pool tables, and will not demand a cover charge. The room to the right will be the live-music room, where cover charges in the $3-to-$5 range will be collected.

   Some see the Orbit Room as the blessed savior to Deep Ellum, while others view as just another live venue doomed to flop. However, it's probably best to see it as simply another option. It's another option for local bands who are tired of playing the same small axis of local rock clubs. It's also another option for audiences who feel frustrated by the live-music choices they're currently given. And maybe, just maybe, it might even provide some gig for young bands having trouble breaking in elsewhere. At the very least, it gives everyone a little more choice.

back to buckpets press