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A Free Blast From An Under-recognized Part of H-town's Ska Past [2/09/2009 03:45:00 PM]:
Many, many, many moons ago, when this wee ezine was but a shade of its present self, the Internet was in its infancy, ska bands drew crowds of hundreds of kids to Fitzgerald's, and a Democrat was in the White House (oh, wait...), I got sent a CD out of the blue by a pair of Bay Area-dwelling guys, Bob Wall and Ruel Russell, who called themselves Bone Simple. They'd each been in a couple of ska bands around Houston, notably St. Vitus Dance and Slow Children, and they'd recorded the whole thing in their little Analgesic Records (now Sound of Wall) home studio, just them and a bunch of friends -- which may not sound like that big a deal these days, but back then it was kind of an anomaly to hear something nicely-recorded/-produced that wasn't backed by Justice Records and/or recorded at Sugar Hill.

At any rate, I was skeptical when I checked out their debut disc, Tastes Like Chicken; more of the ska-punk that was drowning the city at the time, right? Thankfully not. Tastes Like Chicken, instead, was this crazy blend of Third Wave-style ska (think Bim Skala Bim, in particular), loopy, jazzy funk (a fair amount of Sprawl influence on a few songs), and manic/quirky pop-rock. The musicianship was drum-tight like these folks had been playing together for years (they had), the vocals were smoke-scratched and real like Dicky Barrett wishes his could be, and best of all, it was catchy as all hell. I flat-out loved it. I reviewed it for the very first issue of the print incarnation of this thing, promoted Bone Simple as much as humanly possible to friends & family, sent glowing emails to Bob & Ruel, attempted to distro the CD through me & homey Josh's half-assed little record label (I, uh, may still have several dozen copies stashed somewhere, come to think of it...), and crossed my fingers and waited for them to get huge, at least locally.

Unfortunately, no dice. I dunno whether it was bad timing -- the ska wave was just about cresting here at the time -- the odd juxtaposition of styles, the fact that they couldn't play live much (having jobs & families & all that), but the acclaim just missed 'em. For years afterwards I just shook my head in bewilderment, unable to comprehend that nobody really got it, y'know? Ska faded, and so did my hopes for the band being loved by all.

The B.S. guys weren't content to just let things lie, of course; they moved on, putting out two more albums over the next several years, Skinny Atlas and the lukewarm-ish What Was Her Name? (I reviewed the former but was swamped for the latter, so I had to hand it off, sorry...), before calling it a day officially a few years back. Not sure what Ruel's up to these days, but Bob's done the solo singer/songwriter thing for a while and relatively recently pulled together a new band, The Grangers, that sound pretty interesting (not in any kind of ska vein, mind you).

I'll admit that while it was in heavy rotation for a long-ass time, I haven't listened to Tastes Like Chicken in years. So, when I got an email from Bob saying he'd slapped a bunch of those old Bone Simple tracks up on his site, I felt a weird kind of nostalgia -- "hey, I remember those..." And believe it or not, the intervening years hasn't touched the brilliance of tracks like "Shameless Shadows and Tears", "Ones and Zeroes", "Sometimes Tender Kisses Are the Best", and "Just a Rude Boy".

Check 'em all out here. Enjoy...



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