Centro-matic Scratches A Very Specific Itch At Fitz
Unless there's no way to avoid it, the one night of the week Rocks Off does not like to review shows is Friday. After five straight 10- to 12-hour days (at least), our brain is usually in tatters and all we want to do is limp home or to a preferred watering hole and shut it off for a few hours. This goes double for anything related to music, at least any kind of critical thinking beyond that required to punch a few buttons on a jukebox.
Photos by Jason Wolter
But besides our day job, music - especially live music - is still our main hobby after all these years. It's like a cockroach that way, or a virus, or pure instinct; there doesn't seem to be anything we can do about it. And to be perfectly honest, there isn't much else we really like to do anyway. So every once in a while, against our better judgment, Friday evening rolls around and there we are, in front of one more stage. An hour or two later, we often wish we weren't.
That wasn't the case Friday, although it easily could have been. Centro-matic is not a band that lends itself to casual fandom or easy analysis, where you can hear a couple of songs and think, "Oh, I get it." Or so we thought.
Since forming in 1995, the Denton four-piece has released several albums under its own name as well as solo work and satellite projects like South San Gabriel. It's a lot of material. They fit in well in Austin (surprise), so Rocks Off has caught the band a few times over the years, although not any more recently than around 2005 or so. We've liked a couple of their records enough to put them on our year-end Top 10 list - 2003's Love You Just the Same and probably this year's Candidate Waltz - but by no means are we an expert.
To say front man and principal songwriter Will Johnson is "cryptic" would be like calling those "Diagramless" crossword puzzles that show up every once in a while in The New York Times Magazine - the ones without any black squares - "challenging." A random sampling of Johnson/Centro-matic's catalog will give you song titles that are evocative ("Guillotines Hung Together"), punny ("Glacial Slurs") or just plain WTF ("Post-It Notes from the State Hospital").
Musically, Centro-matic makes a bit more sense. Picture a folk singer run amuck with three brothers in arms who have been playing together for so long every move they make is completely intuitive and organic, and you're most of the way towards imagining what the modest but enthusiastic crowd at Fitz downstairs got Friday night. Johnson and the three other Centros gave it right back - he said the band was stoked to be playing Houston for the first time in four years; much more importantly, they played like it.