SXSW Thursday Wrap-Up: Austin, We Have a Problem. Specifically, With Other Bands. ['WAVVES SUXX'!]

Malitz not pictured. He was too busy getting musicians to talk trash to stand in some stupid line. That and he had to watch the Terps beat Cal. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman)

AUSTIN -- It's official: Beef is back.

Flaming Lips, Arcade Fire, Radiohead and Miley have nothing on the group of musicians I've been chatting with here. Sure, part of the reason I picked these bands to interview was because I thought they might actually say something interesting things instead of spewing the same old standard, boring lines. I also think all three bands are great.

First up was Future of the Left, the mightiest Welsh band there is; a trio featuring former members of Mclusky, they continue that band's tradition of pummeling-but-tuneful rock. Singer/guitarist Andy Falkous is an angry fellow -- see my Twitter update where he threatened to murder the next person who told him he illegally downloaded a Future of the Left album.

It wasn't the only reference to murder he made during the half-hour interview. The one, specific band that drew a bit of his wrath was an old Post Rock punching bag: After asking him about working with Steve Albini, Falkous recounted a time he played in Chicago and told the crowd, "It's an honor to be playing in a town with so many great bands. And also the Smashing Pumpkins."

Look for the full interview next week, with Falkous and his bandmates talk about their new album, about being angry and funny at the same time, and about exactly how much money it would take Falkous to reform Mclusky.

(Read the rest of the report after the jump.)

Then, it was time to talk to Ian McCulloch, singer for Echo and the Bunnymen. This interview doesn't just deserve its own post; it deserves its own thesis. McCulloch is definitely convinced that his own "The Killing Moon" is the greatest song of all time, just as much as he is convinced that Bono is a, well, a term a British person might use to describe someone like, well ... Bono.

Back in the band's infancy, McCulloch earned the nickname "Mac the Mouth" for his tendency to speak his mind; that blunt tendency remains. At one point Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie sat down at our table and the two musicians chatted about football for a few minutes while I simply sat there, utterly befuddled. Don't try to talk to them about American sports like basketball or, especially, baseball, about which McCulloch said: "It's like cricket for [expletives]." Well, then. Much, much more on this front sometime in the near future.

Last on the interview slate for the week was Psychedelic Horses***. I wanted to talk to singer/guitarist Matt Whitehurst because I thought he'd have an interesting take on the current lo-fi boom that has made minor stars of the likes of Wavves, Vivian Girls and No Age.

It didn't take much prompting at all -- within about a minute, he unloaded on all of them. His reasoning was simple: For his band, lo-fi really was done out of necessity. He'd love to do a hi-fi record; it's just not feasible at this point. (No, the band name doesn't help, he admits in an interview that I'll post here ... eventually.) But the new bands are simply treating the sound as a fashion accessory, going with whatever is in vogue right now. How strongly does Psychedelic Horses*** feel about this? Drummer Rich Johnston took the stage at the band's show wearing a homemade T-shirt that said "WAVVES SUXX."

Oh, it is on.

Haiku recaps of the bands I saw can be found on Twitter. You should really add us as a friend or become a follower, or whatever you do on Twitter. It makes the Shiner Bock taste better.

The best band I've seen over the past couple days was Thee Oh Sees, a San Francisco group that played some seriously hip-shakin', ear-ringin', howlin' garage rock. They had plenty of energy, but when that's the best thing you can say about a band, it's about as backhanded a compliment as they come. Yet every song kicked into serious overdrive: lots of fuzz, reverb, tambourine, keyboards -- all the little things that make songs better. It's a hard genre in which to stand out, because the template is so standard, resulting in plenty of bands that sound entirely the same. But Thee Oh Sees breaks from the pack, in both songwriting and performance.

I spent the early part of the evening at the showcase for Siltbreeze, the premier label for noisy, experimental, underground rock. Eat Skull was an enjoyable blast of loud, hooky, off-kilter punk. Hank IV followed, and it's not the next in the line of Hank Williams kin, just a San Francisco band that played some seriously loud and dirty riff rock. The band dedicated the set to Ron House, singer for '90s lo-fi heroes Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, and it was an appropriate dedication because Hank IV owes plenty to TJSA and its brand of attitude-heavy bar-band rock. And when I say bar-band, I don't mean a bar where people who have clothes from the Gap would drink.

I wrote about the Homosexuals last year, and while there was no way Thursday's performance was going to top that in terms of pure thrill, the band has grown into a much tighter unit over the past year while frontman Bruno Wizard remains a singular presence on stage. They simply don't make them like the 58-year-old Wizard anymore. We should maybe be thankful for that, but we should be more thankful that he and his band are out there continuing to bring these classic songs roaring back to life.

I had psyched myself up to see old-school Southern hip-hop heroes 8Ball and MJG, but they canceled. It meant I went back to Emo's to see Thee Oh Sees, so no complaints. King Khan and the Shrines was almost pure shtick, a rock-soul revival, complete with a full horn section, call and response with the audience and ... a cheerleader? It's the perfect kind of band to see at SXSW, where everybody plays an abbreviated set; then again, I think almost all bands should do abbreviated sets. And ending with a blistering version of the Saints song "Know Your Product" is always a winning move.

The plan for Friday is to make up for lost day-show time and see bands all day, starting at noon. So remember to check Twitter during breaks in college basketball.

By David Malitz |  March 20, 2009; 6:44 AM ET SXSW
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