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Hard to believe, but as the decade turned from the '70s to the '80s, scenemakers and postpunk trendwatchers were looking for the next burgeoning proto-alternative scene to be emerging from...well, Akron, Ohio. Famous for being both the birthplace of Pretender Chrissie Hynde and home of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Akron (aka "Rubber City") coughed up enough interesting bands in the late '70s to warrant the fleeting attention it received, e.g., Devo, the Rubber City Rebels, and Tin Huey. Led by Chris Butler, Tin Huey was a group of postpunk Zappa/Beefheart fans who played artful (and at times arty) punk-pop with touches of free-form jazz blowing and eclectic smartassness. For reasons that can only be chalked up to over-enthusiasm, Warner Bros. signed them hoping that their radio-friendly cover of the Monkees "I'm a Believer" would break big. Loaded with raving guitars, tuneful vocals, and recorded without a whiff of condescension, there was nothing else on Tin Huey's fine and only record that sounded remotely like it. With songs like "I Could Rule the World If I Could Only Get the Parts" and "Chinese Circus," Tin Huey were closer to the art-rock dadaism of Frank Zappa and the lovable weirdness of Pere Ubu than the pop of the Monkees. In a story as old as rock & roll itself, Huey's record sold dismally and the band split up about a year after they were the second biggest catch (after Devo) to come out of Akron. The band's two high-profile members, Butler and saxophonist Ralph Carney, carved out interesting solo careers, Butler initially with the Waitresses (their big hit was "I Know What Boys Like") and more recently as a solo act; Carney as a member of the Swollen Monkeys and regular contributor to Tom Waits' recordings. Thanks to the Collectables label, Tin Huey's sole album, Contents Dislodged During Shipment, finally saw its CD debut in 2003. -- John Dougan, All Music Guide

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