On a long-term mission to confront, confuse and ultimately comfort its battle-scarred audience, Three Day Stubble combines the most eccentric extremes of Houston (the band’s birthplace) and San Francisco (its adopted home). Dressed in garish clashing polyester plaids, the group’s self-actualization campaign has sometimes been hindered by the false impression that its music is a joke. In the long run, Stubble’s aggressive lack of ego is more radically unsettling than all the razor blades and spiked dog collars in punkdom.
Issued as an honest-to-god 8-track tape, Nerd Rock compiles eight tracks, most of which resemble a stoned hybrid of Texas blues and the Master Musicians of Jajouka. After a successful West Coast tour in 1983, Stubble relocated to California, where it became a hit on the experimental underground. The group at this time was a tilt-a-whirl of outside collaborators, notably Brad Laner, who later founded Medicine.
The Friendly Park Survivors cassette is one of Stubble’s more prescient moments. Contained on a small scale, the bustling psychedelia and exotic inclinations are cohesively integrated on “Beli & Bali,” “Boogin’ Around” and “Hurly Whurly Mama.” Stream-of-consciousness vocalist Donald the Nut, Brently Pusser and Wilma combine the best of ’70s wigout and ’80s no wave with fiercely expressive self-invented guitar and home sounds. Dazzling and way ahead of its time — in every way (except self-importance) the equal of Stereolab and Tortoise.
Monster is a tuneless, rambling epoch of self-justification, meaning it fits right in with the prevalent DIY punk records of the day. Like a spaced-out Half Japanese, the band vamps through “Turbulance of Motion,” the anti-hardcore spoof “Nick the Dick” and nine other ventures in search of the almighty positive mental attitude. Pusser shines as a wigged-out guitar hero; his reassuring riffs anchor the rhythmic and vocal flakiness. Still, hanging through linear jams for the full hour can be psychically exhausting.
The late ’80s saw a great deal of personal turmoil for Three Day Stubble, with periods of inactivity that left co-founder Wilma back in Houston. A 1987 Texas jaunt produced a permanent second guitarist, and Wafer of Darkness put Stubble back on track. Newcomer Mr. Hungry joins Pusser for an awesome discombobulating dual guitar attack, enabling the bouncy polynote riffing of “Mind Over Matter.” Deeply affecting revelations from maturing man-child-prophet Donald find him at odds with an alienating modern world in “Look Experience” and “Teckaknowlegy.” The title track is a nerdy white-soul take (complete with catchy falsetto refrain) on James Brown.
Festival of the Wedding of the Sea Goat follows the band’s hit-or-experiment quality, with convoluted boogie numbers like “Stone Lizard Angina” mixing it up amongst a cappella improv from Donald (fresh from performing his personal art form avi for Mr. T on The Gong Show). New bassist Murder’r Bob (ex-Tragic Mulatto) replaced ten-year stalwart Capt. Dan Man mid-recording. Comparisons to Captain Beefheart persist, though Stubble still does not seem at its core to be a rock band. If there’s a Residents influence to be noted, it seems to hail from Eskimo, not Duck Stab. Frenetic as the band can be, there are no sharp edges — Stubble proves enthusiastically that music can soothe shattered nerves without sounding like aural anesthesia.
Three Day Stubble tightened up its musical act in 1993 with the addition of drummer Don Bolles (ex-Germs/45 Grave), replacing Dave “Spumoni” Cameron, a former Roky Erickson associate who commuted to Stubble rehearsals from Austin. Pusser concurrently joined Barbara Manning’s SF Seals.