Late 1980’s Austin Music Scene

By Michael Corcoran, Dallas Morning News, Nov. 1992.

CITY: Austin, Texas
HEYDAY: 1985-1987
SCENEMAKERS: True Believers, Doctor’s Mob, the Reivers (formerly Zeitgeist)

HISTORY: All of a sudden there were all these great bands. And they sounded different- True Believers was a more polished version of Johnnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, while the Reivers were kind of like the Mamas and the Papas produced by Mitch Easter. Doctor’s Mob sounded like Husker Du and drank like the Replacements. Wild Seeds and Glass Eye were indescribable amalgams of every record they owned.

The only thing these bands had in common was a self-deprecating playfulness that attracted a loyal following. Jesse Sublett, an Austin old-waver, sniffed at a True Believers show, “Oh, I just love this new sincereity,” and a columnist printed it. This then-unnamed scene took Mr. Sublett’s sarcasm and wove it into a silly “New Sincerity” banner and went on to regularly pack clubs such as Sparky’s, the Beach and the Continental Club. Impressive spreads in Rolling Stone, Spin and The New York Times, as well as an hour on MTV, were devoted to this passel of “slackers.”

Austin has long headquartered music scenes, from the 60’s hippie blues of Johnny Winter and Conqueroo at the Vulcan Gas Company to the mid-’70s outlaw country that sprang out of the Armadillo courtesy of Waylon and Willie and the boys. In the early ’80s, a vibrant punk movement- featuring Big Boys, Terminal Mind, Standing Waves and, later, Butthole Surfers and Scratch Acid- clawed its way to national prominence.

The so-called New Sincerity was the perfect prototype of a scene because it was short-lived and overhyped. The original Continental closed, the major labels chewed up and spat out the city’s best two bands (True Believers and the Reivers) and all the fans graduated from UT and either moved away or formed bands that might be part of the next big scene.

LANDMARK ALBUMS: The Reivers, Translate Slowly (originally recorded as Zeitgeist) (DB) and Saturday (Capitol); Wild Seeds, Mud, Lies and Shame (Passport); Doctor’s Mob, Headache Machine (Wrestler); True Believers, The Glixman Sessions (never released, but heavily bootlegged); Daniel Johnston, Hi, How Are You? (Homestead).