gutsy but a bit boring

Contrails (Manufacture Sound Output Co.)
The Casual T's

By Mark Clark

You've got to respect any band with the testicular fortitude to make five of the 14 tracks on its new album instrumentals.

You've got to respect the band, but you don't have to like the album.

The problem with Contrails, the new album from the Casual T's, is that the high number of instrumentals is the ballsiest thing about this record.

The T's, a Florida-based band fronted by Louisville export Patrick Puckett (brother of Courier-Journal pop music swami Jeffrey Lee Puckett), play a likable brand of jangly Southern pop. There's nothing really wrong with the band's sound, there's just nothing especially right about it, either.

There are some nice melodies here ("Join Me Y'All," for instance). Puckett and Bob Anthony get in a few tasty guitar chops. But few of the tracks with vocals ever really take off. "Bath in the Rain" is a quality ballad and "Straight Drinks and Mixed Emotions" has a twangy charm. But most of the rest of the cuts are forgettable.

One problem lies with the flat, chintzy sound quality of this self-produced disc. Chances are, these guys sound a lot better live. Part of the blame must also rest with Puckett, however, who sings with admirable passion but without a remarkable voice.

The album's finest moments come during those five instrumentals:

"Meal Ticket," which opens the disc, is a pseudo-jazzy Jeff Beck trip. "Swiss Cheese on Top" is a fast-and-loose jangler. It's built around a guitar lick that recalls Robbie Krieger's coda from "The Unknown Soldier." "Elbow Grease No. 4" adds a slice of country to the broth. "When the Stone Hits the Bone" boasts a terrific, funky bassline from David Murphy. And "Space and Energy," which closes the set, is, well, spacey.

The instrumentals, taken by themselves, show a band with plenty of skill and imagination. Too bad the other nine tracks are so boring.

If you would like to give this disc a try, write Manufacture Sound Output Co., P.O. Box 14881, Tallahassee, Fla., 32308.