Wednesday, March 08, 2006

New Track du Jour: Sprawl

Artist: Sprawl
Track: Intro-Wages-Opposable Thumbs
Location: Houston
Date: 03-08-2006
Comment: This audio triptych is comprised of tracks from Sprawl's 1993 release The Man with the Yellow Hat. The album is representative of a transitional time in Sprawl's career. Dan Robinson, the original guitarist and a co-founder, left and was replaced by Joey Salinas. Dan's departure further snapped the band's academia roots (the four founding members met while attending Rice University). Simultaneously, Nick's burgeoning infatuation with digital recording found an outlet. Nick was one of the first musicians I knew to work with ProTools (this was back in '93 and I think he was using ProTools 1.0!). Throughout their playing career, Sprawl was met with "poser" criticism. You know, a bunch of upper middleclass white boys jumping on the Funk band wagon. Maybe, but Sprawl consistently demonstrated a love for the music and musicians they emulated. I lived across the street from the Sprawl House for a few years. I can attest to the diversity and depth of their music collections and their passion for various african american music forms. This triptych is unusual in that regard too; it features guest vocal tracks from Houston area soul singers and rap artists. At a time when Houston's rap scene was dominated by Rap-a-Lot and the Geto Boys, Sprawl's collaboration revealed to the suburban white youth a more intellectual (if you will) side to the Houston rap scene.

click below to listen (requires FLASH)...
track du jour


John Cramer said...

I was never a big Sprawl fan, but continue to have a ton of respect for what they meant for Houston in general. A definite diversity of opinions and tastes from the folks involved. I'd be lying if I said that they didn't have a huge impact on the local 90's landscape. The whole Lexington universe was a world unto itself, as anyone who spent any time there would tell you. The stories Bo told me were endless and insane. I was never about to pretend to be recognized in this city as long as Sprawl was intact, not to mention De Schmog...damnit!

Kilian said...

I think a lack of zealousness towards Sprawl is understandable.

They played funk and ska, which was sophmoric even at that point. The latter especially was a rite of passage for any college freshman who played horn in a high school band (so not particularly original -- the ska band has been replaced by elephant six types nowadays perhaps???). Sprawl shows were big and full of kiddies. And though they themselves weren't nearly as fratboyish as many similar bands at the time, the scene tended to be. But then, they were themselves sophomoric, some of them still in high school even. As they grew into their musical selves they sort of out-grew Sprawl which is something I admire about them, leaving on a high note as they did (and never reuniting even though it's always been very feasible). They were still selling out Fitzgerald's when they packed it in. And of course they've all gone on to do interesting things.

The Lexington Universe is largely myth (and btw I've never even seen heroine) although I stand by every story Bo told you...and did he tell you the one about how he ended up buck naked in the middle of a Commune party and hence took on the nickname "Arsenio Man II" (II because he wasn't the first one to run naked on the street you know)?

This reminds me that I've been meaning to do a non-linear series of Lexington Street Track du Jours, so let this be the first in a series. Somebody send me a Party Owls mp3!

Greg said...

I liked Sprawl the first time I saw them and continued to like them after the whole late 80s/early 90s funk thing became unsavory. Their high energy and far-reaching enthusiasm transcended all that. Hell, I continued liking Sprawl even after Nick Cooper woke me up early one morning by accidentally throwing a rock through my bedroom window.