johnboy were briefly Austin’s most promising underground mayhem-makers, having caught the ear of Butthole Surfer King Coffey (who signed the band to his Trance Syndicate label) as well as the favor of then-newly arrived local hero Bob Mould. But the trio self-destructed just before the release of its second album, leaving artistic promises unfulfilled and missing out on a slot as Sugar’s opening band.
Working within the same dirgey, dynamic, ear-splitting vein as some of their labelmates (as well as certain Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go kindred spirits), johnboy excelled at threatening aural apocalypses that are equal parts punk and art rock, slowcore and industrial. pistolswing calls to mind Big Black, or great forgotten Homestead din-mongers like Phantom Tollbooth and Honor Role. The noise produced by guitarist Barry Stone, bassist Tony Bice and drummer Jason Meade is intricately structured and even uplifting at times, achieving an imposing and chaotic beauty on songs like the snapping “pistol swing” and the well-paced, almost-catchy “sourmouth.”
There’s little room for friendly things like grooves or hooks amid the heaviness, and if you assume the band might have found a place for them by the second album, you’d be wrong. claim dedications is a far more precise excursion, however, with sleaker guitar tones and even more intimidating metronomic force. Both albums offer the sort of pounding, spectacular construction-site guitar sludge that would be better off if the instrumental textures weren’t marred by nondescript, spoken/shouted punk rock vocals, though the impressionist lyrics are occasionally adroit.
After the end of johnboy, Stone and Bice resurfaced in another Trance Syndicate band, Desifinado.