Message in a Bottle

The Refreshments take a cautious step toward maturity with their new album

Clyne says the band members picked Leary when their A&R man gave them an unlabeled tape of various producers' efforts. When they realized who they'd unanimously selected, the nervousness set in.

"We all kind of cringed, being from a relatively conservative band," Clyne says. "The Butthole Surfers have a reputation that certainly precedes them, and we were kind of frightened. But we liked his sound a lot, so we flew him out here, we had dinner with him, and he's really a regular guy. He's just a Texas son, who's got the biggest heart in the world.

"It was a perfect marriage for this record, 'cause he made us really stick to our art in a way that I'm not so sure that we would have without him. The Butthole Surfers have always been a very independent, self-sufficient art band, and, not that we have those sorts of qualities, but he encouraged those qualities in us."

The Bottle isn't without its flaws. "Una Soda" reveals a potentially hazardous maudlin streak ("Can't drink cervezas anymore"), and Clyne's fascination with Mexican and Old West mythology might be reaching its breaking point, particularly if the tired cantina waltz "Horses" is any indication.

But The Bottle shows a welcome willingness to shed the novelty-rock image. Caught between loyal old regulars--for whom they'll still play the occasional unannounced gig at Yucca Tap Room--and the people who'll blindly put them on a pedestal because they're a local band with a national audience, the Refreshments have made a cautious step forward.

"I'd like to think I'm growing up a little bit," Clyne says. "I'm trying, anyway."

Fife's Hit Parade: What do you give the governor who has everything? Party tapes show such a personal touch. What follows is a Top 10 list of songs that would make appropriate party-tape listening in a confined Fifedom:

1. "Have Mercy Judge"--Chuck Berry
2. "It's Money That Matters"
--Randy Newman
3. "I Fought the Law"--Bobby Fuller Four
4. "Let Me Out"--the Knack
5. "The Overdraft"--Warren Zevon
6. "Jailhouse Rock"--Elvis Presley
7. "Tie a Yellow Ribbon"
--Tony Orlando and Dawn
8. "Riot in Cell Block No. 9"--the Robins
9. "Money Changes Everything"
--the Brains
10. "Release Me"
--Engelbert Humperdinck

Genius is Payne: One of the highlights of the Yo La Tengo show last week was the great, acoustic opening set by Les Payne Product. Yo La Tengo guitarist Ira Kaplan thanked Les Payne for its wildly funny performance, but offered with a smirk that the band was his second choice, after Wayman Tisdale couldn't make the gig. Les Payne has six home-recorded songs in the can, as they say in the biz, and should make them available--either on CD or a series of seven-inch singles--sometime in October.

Packing the Trunk: Trunk Federation's September 5 show at Hollywood Alley in Mesa was its last in town until November. The lovably warped quartet is on tour, and soon will head out to Los Angeles to record the follow-up to this year's Alias debut album, The Infamous Hamburger Transfer. Look for it early next year, most likely in February.

--Gilbert Garcia

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