Column 343: The Return of Fizzle Like a Flood
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Doug Kabourek didn’t look much different than when I first saw him slumped like a homeless college student in the back of Sokol Underground during a Her Space Holiday show, circa 1999.
I had just begun going to rock shows alone — a big step for me, but one I knew I’d have to take if I wanted to continue seeing the indie bands I loved. I realized after finding Kabourek rolled up like a bum on the floor that others were in the same boat as myself, though he had an excuse for being alone — he’d just moved to Bellevue from somewhere in Iowa, and didn’t know anybody. I wouldn’t discover until months later, when I interviewed him about Golden Sand and the Grandstand that he was the local musician who went by the odd, awkward name Fizzle Like a Flood.
Now here we were, 12 years later, talking about music over a basket of tortilla chips on the outdoor patio of Agave in Dundee. Pop hits of the ’80s (Huey Lewis & the News, The Outfield, Phil Collins) blared from hidden speakers as Kabourek slowly built a crystal wall of empty margarita glasses on the table. The reason for the reunion was the pending release of Choice Kills Response (Nectar and Venom Records), the first new Fizzle Like a Flood CD since 2005’s Love LP, which kind of/sort of marked the departure of Kabourek as Fizzle.
Now available for download via his former record label, Ernest Jenning (home of O’Death, The Black Hollies and Chris Mills, among others) Love should have been Fizzle’s next step. “It was my most impressive record, and it took the most amount of time to make,” Kabourek said. “It was supposed to come out on Valentines Day 2006. But I was paying for everything; the label was only providing distribution. I couldn’t afford the $7,000 needed to actually release it.”
But more than financials pushed Fizzle Like a Flood into an unplanned hiatus. “I never quit,” Kabourek explained. “It’s just that no one ever reacted to anything I did. I wanted it to ‘just happen,’ and it doesn’t ‘just happen’ in Omaha. You have to really try to make it happen, and even then it doesn’t happen.”
Oh, there were a few write-ups, including an All Music Guide review that called Golden Sand “consistently aurally engaging.” The smattering of press caught the eye of Ernest Jenning, who rereleased that album in ’05 with new artwork by Frank Holmes, who did the art for Beach Boys’ Smile. But for the most part, the winsome, multi-layered one-man head trip — an homage to the demolished Aksarben horse track — went unnoticed. But no more so than its followup, Flash Paper Queen (The 4-Track Demos), with its parenthetical joke title that no one (including Pitchfork) got.
After recording the Love LP Kabourek moved on to other things, including The Dull Cares, a project whose music was modeled after “Earth Angel”-style ’60s pop, and At Land, a power trio featuring longtime friends Travis Sing (Black Squirrels) and James Carrig (Sarah Benck and the Robbers).
“At Land recorded at Baseline, but never released anything,” Kabourek said. “I was drunk at every session. It was going to be sloppy, old-man rock, even though we knew we weren’t old yet.”
While those projects kept him busy (and anonymous), Kabourek kept writing Fizzle Like a Flood music. “I finally got an itch to make this record this past winter,” he said. “Some of the songs go back to 2005.”
Choice Kills Response is a return to form for Kabourek, and another example of his home-studio recording — and songwriting — prowess. The killer tracks are the ones that depart from his typical heart-on-his-sweater-sleeve approach, like the roaring, hollow-hearted rocker “Cutters.” It is equal parts Pixies and early Weezer, along with an excuse for Kabourek to use the word “masturbation” in his lyrics.
“‘Cutters’ was written for At Land, which to me is a ’90s tribute band but with our own songs,” Kabourek said. “(The song) is about the frustration of not having sex for a long time, which is the perfect theme for every ’90s song. Every big hit from 1994 had ‘masturbation’ in the lyrics.” Other tracks, like opener “Balcony” and “Great,” are Fizzle fixtures with crunching guitars and Kabourek’s trademark bells, while the unpronounceable “Ö[Æ]à[=]É” is a modern surf rocker, complete with horror-movie organ. Kabourek skimps on nothing on this recording, but since he now refuses to use backing tracks on stage, we’ll never hear it performed this way live.
Not bad for a guy who at 38 says he’s fallen out of the music scene. “I’ve gotten to the age where this is my music — the ’90s — I love that stuff,” he said. “If someone plays me something new, that’s fine, but I have enough old music to keep me happy.”
He says he hasn’t been to Pitchfork.com since 2006. “I watched the Grammy’s two years ago,” he said. “What was the band with a thousand members and none of them play anything remotely catchy? Arcade Fire? I don’t get it. It’s OK, but I don’t like their stuff. And Radiohead on SNL last night? What I heard sucks.”
In fact, you’re not going to find Kabourek hiding in the back of rock clubs these days. “We like to go sing karaoke,” he said. “It’s more fun than going to a show.”
Except for his show, of course.
Fizzle Like a Flood’s CD release party is Oct. 7 at The Barley Street Tavern with The Whipkey Three, At Land and Underwater Dream Machine. The show starts at 9 p.m. Cover is $5.
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Tonight’s red hot ticket is Conduits at The Waiting Room with Outlaw Con Bandana, Thunder Power and Wayward Little Satan Daughters (Rachel Tomlinson Dick of Honeybee & Hers). The burning question on everyone’s mind is when (or if) Conduits is going to release their debut album, which has been in the can since early this year. One assumes they’re still looking for a label with decent distro. It’s easy to say a label ain’t necessary in this era of electronic distro, but let’s be honest, you’re almost always better off if you can get on a recognized label rather than just putting the CD out yourself, selling copies to your local fans and hoping someone out there (someone with influence) notices. Unless your band is on a known label or is newsworthy or happens to catch the ear of an influential national blogger or celebrity, it will remain unnoticed and unheard, no matter how good it is. It’s a harsh reality that hasn’t changed despite the rise of the Internet era.
Anyway… Show starts at 9, cover is $7.
Also tonight, Steve Bartolomei of Mal Madrigal is playing at The Barley Street Tavern with Mike Saklar and Ben Brodin. $5, 9 p.m. Good times.
And finally, Cloven Path is playing a last-minute show at O’Leaver’s tonight. 9:30, $5.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.