Carla Olson / The Textones

Midnight Mission

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The Textones were one of the better bands to rise from the Los Angeles club scene in the late '70s and early '80s, but they were held back by what, paradoxically, was one of their most admirable qualities -- they were awfully hard to pigeonhole. The Textones were too beholden to rock tradition to fit in with the town's new wave scene, and too polished and poised for the speedy punk crowd; it's significant that original guitarist Kathy Valentine, a bit out of place in the Textones, would fare much better as a member of the Go-Go's. But they also sounded too lean and wiry to sit comfortably next to L.A.'s aging rock royalty, and leader Carla Olson's widely acknowledged enthusiasm for less celebrated rock heroes like Gene Clark and Mick Taylor (both of whom would eventually collaborate with her) made her seem too idiosyncratic for the mainstream audience. Add in some fervent leftist populism and an instrumental approach that sounded like an efficient, intelligent variant on heartland rock (complete with saxophone in the Springsteen manner by Tom Junior Morgan), and you get a group that could move a crowd without conveniently fitting any one particular demographic. The Textones' first full-length album, 1984's Midnight Mission, is also their best, the most effective blend of Carla Olson's impassioned vocals and principled songs with her bandmates' sleek but muscular attack that embraced folk rock and roots rock while adding a tuneful veneer that could have rocked the arenas if they'd had the right breaks. With the exception of the Bob Dylan cover "Clean Cut Kid," Olson penned the best songs on Midnight Mission, and her jangly guitar work meshed well with George Callins' chunkier sound, and Phil Seymour not only was a solid drummer and half of a fine rhythm section with bassist Joe Read, he was a superb harmony vocalist with Olson. A fine example of how the concision of the new wave helped inform other rock styles as well, Midnight Mission was also the album that made Carla Olson one of the cult heroines of the L.A. roots rock scene, and she's rarely merged form and content as well as she did on this album. Midnight Mission has also been credited to "Carla Olson & the Textones."

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