by Robert Bell
JIM MIZE, FRONTIER CIRCUS RECORD RELEASE SHOW
9:30 p.m. Maxine's. $5.
The Frontier Circus — the latest project from Rockin' Guys front man Rockin' Dan, now performing as Frontier Dan — bills itself as "A little bit psycho ... a little bit Western."
The Central Arkansas band's debut album certifies that the group is probably more than "a little bit" of either of those things. It starts off with a punked-up take on "You're Gonna Miss Me," the classic three-minute garage-rock blast to end all others. Its feedback squall and unhinged feel are reminiscent of Sonic Youth's frighteningly deranged version of "I Wanna Be Your Dog." The album wraps up with a similarly screeching version of "(Tonight) The Bottle Let Me Down," one of the finest drunkard's laments in the history of country music.
The fact that the Frontier Circus record starts with a 13th Floor Elevators song and ends with a Merle Haggard tune — and that they don't sound that different from one another — is telling. This album is shot through with pulsing, reverb-heavy vocals and Velvet Underground-esque six-string damage. So naturally, a Velvets cover is in order, in this case a version of "Heroin" that sounds more like a bite-sized take on "Sister Ray" than the free-floating Sturm und Drang of the original.
Other tunes include numbers made famous by the likes of Johnny Paycheck, Wanda Jackson and Porter Wagoner (a demented version of the already pretty demented psych-country nugget "The Rubber Room"). The country classics are interspersed with psychedelic standards like "White Rabbit" and "Venus." But really, the album sounds cohesive and the band puts its own indelible stamp on these incredibly disparate songs.
Headlining the show is Conway's Jim Mize, one of the finest songwriters the state has ever produced.