Oso Closo

Everyone has a band that they consider their little secret. In some ways the String Cheese Incident is mine; no one local to me knows who they are and they usually don’t like them if I try to introduce them. But I have entire communities online that I can fellowship with if I want to feel the gouda vibrations. They have a sizable audience, just not one I ever see in person. My real musical secret is the best band that should have made it big and never did: Oso Closo.

Oso Closo hailed from the city I’ve lived near or in almost all my life (Denton, Texas), and comprised Adrian Hulet on lead vocal and keys, Chris McQueen and Danny Garcia on guitar, Andy Rogers on bass, and Ryan Jacobi on drums. I first became aware of them when they opened for Monte Montgomery at the Granada Theater in Dallas in 2008. I bought a shirt. I still have it. My favorite moment from their all-too-short set was the closer, a cover of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.[1] Apologies for the low video quality, but that’s as good as YouTube videos got back then, and anyway it’s the audio that counts. I don’t think anyone’s going to pretend it holds a candle to the original, but using rigorous scientific metrics, it is about nine billion times better than the Simply Red version.


Not long after that show, the band released their second album, Today Is Beauty’s Birthday. I haven’t listened to much from their debut, Rest, so I can’t attest to whatever unappreciated greatness it might be tucked away on there, but TIBB is some of the hottest liquid gold I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Beginning with the eponymous three-minute symphonic suite, it transitions seamlessly into “Anywhere You Want To”, a song that will make you want to pledge undying devotion to your significant other all over again, or find a significant other to pledge undying devotion to if you don’t already have one. In fact, the whole album is basically a paean to the deepest and most keenly felt of loves, and if at times it feels like it’s broadcasting its dispatches from deep in the friend zone, it’s only because it’s one of the most heart-rendingly sincere musical documents of its kind.

There’s another classical interlude at “Magnolia”, at which point the album becomes decidedly more pensive and minor-key. The only unfortunate thing about “Photograph” is that it has to share a title with a far inferior Nickelback song. But “Bayou Girl” and “Le Désir de Nuage” both have largely superfluous codas, making the middle the most difficult stretch of the album.
 
The brightest jewel, however, in an album full of them, is “Back Is Broken”, which borrows its squiggly synth from fellow Dentoneers Snarky Puppy for a ripping solo backed by a guitar sound that encapsulates all the pain of the song and the one before it, “We, Ours”. The love the narrator insisted could survive anything doesn’t last the whole album, but they do a good job of making you want to believe in it all the same.
 
They made waves elsewhere, too. I doubt you remember much, if anything, about promotional campaigns run by chain restaurants—although if you do, my apologies—but in 2009, Chipotle ran a contest where they asked users to submit video productions relating their favorite burritos to order at Chipotle. Amid thousands of other entries, Oso Closo took first place, which was $10,000 and a year of free Chipotle. There will never be an Oso Closo greatest hits compilation, but if by some miracle it ever happened, it would be an absolute crime not to throw this little 50-second ditty on there. It is charming as heck and it always puts an enormous grin on my face.

Sadly, Oso Closo were too beautiful for this miserable earth, and the group dissolved not long after TIBB was released. The founding members, minus Adrian, went on to form Foe Destroyer, now a trio, who released a self-titled album in 2013. They’ve got a much crunchier garage-type sound than Oso Closo did, but these days it’s the closest to an Oso Closo fix one can get.

Oso Closo, and Adrian in particular, are everything that make me wish I’d learned a musical instrument as a child. They were capable of incorporating an orchestra into their rock sound without evoking the worst excesses of progressive rock. They could write an 8-minute song and make it feel like the most natural thing in the world. Their guitarist sounded like Brian May. Adrian’s voice—my God, his voice!—somehow sounds golden and gritty at the same time. It can give you all the bombast of the most powerful arena rock, and it can bring the volume from that level down to candlelight intimacy in the space of a single heartbeat. It’s a voice that can even lend gravitas to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song, of all things. Oso Closo are the greatest band that ever came out of Denton, and I include in that assessment Bowling for Soup, Brave Combo, and one-fourth of the Eagles.[2]


[3]

You can go out and watch fireworks this weekend, or you can listen to them, by spinning Today Is Beauty’s Birthday on repeat. (Yes, yes, Old El Paso girl, we know, we know. Just let me have my ridiculous binaries, will you?)

spotify:track:4gq14vkSuFIjsQH5YS76mS

spotify:track:3420ZH68uuc52zH69UL9Bl


[1] While we’re on the subject of covers, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” wasn’t even the best one played that night. That would be Monte Montgomery doing “In the Air Tonight”, which I can tell you for a fact precisely zero people in attendance were expecting and got less excited for “When Will I” than they did for this. Luckily, the Granada also captured this song in glorious 240p video for posterity, and you should do absolutely nothing else before viewing the video below.

[2] Don Henley, ugh.
 
[3] Featuring a Shredder who actually shreds!
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