Half Mad Moon
Sire Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/02/1999
What would happen if the Indigo Girls went rockabilly?
The answer might lie in the debut release from The Damnations TX, Half Mad Moon. This Texas-based quartet hits the target on some tracks, but they often show the growing pains a young band goes through.
The group - vocalist/bassist Amy Boone, vocalist/guitarist Deborah Kelly, guitarist/vocalist Rob Bernard and drummer Keith Langford - maintain a country air to their music without turning their backs on alternative rock or folk. The mixture is one that would, on paper, seem to be an interesting amalgam, at the very least.
Opening with the country-rock mixture of "Unholy Train," there quickly seems to be some promise to The Damnations TX, even though I would have liked to have heard the band stretch things out a little bit with even a rudimentary guitar solo. Still, simplicity isn't a bad way to introduce one's self to the populace.
There are times on this relatively short album (the 12 tracks clock in at under 40 minutes) that things seem to keep going the group's way. "Commercial Zone Blues" is a quirky, catchy number that is one you're sure to keep returning to. "Kansas" and "Down The Line" are captivating in their rollicking style, while "No Sign Of Water" is one track that reminds me a lot of the Indigo Girls, especially in Boone and Kelly's harmony vocals.
Unfortunately, there are many songs on Half Mad Moon that show this band needs to tighten up their songwriting a bit. "Spit And Tears" just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and needed a little more development and less key changes. "Jack's Waltz" is a track that had a lot of promise in the beginning, but quickly unraveled into a disappointing country waltz. (Not that country waltzes are bad; this song needed another coat of paint or two to really be better.)
In the end, the overall feeling you might walk away with from Half Mad Moon is indifference. For each killer track like "Things I Once Adored" or quirky but enjoyable number like "Half Mad Moon," there is an equally disappointing track like "Black Widow". The solution seems to be giving The Damnations TX a chance to grow as musicians and as songwriters, something that only comes with time together and experience. I do hear a lot of promise in this group; unfortunately, they're not always able to deliver the goods on Half Mad Moon.
There are enough good moments on Half Mad Moon that make me say this is a group worth watching in the years to come. But this album is kind of like walking through a horse's stable barefoot. The good moments are like feeling cool, fresh grass under your feet. I'll let you complete the metaphor.