Forget the mysteries surrounding crop circles, the Bermuda Triangle, and why people watch reality television. Scientists really ought to be trying to figure what it is that makes Austin, Texas, the freak-rock Mecca of the free world. Is it the city’s infamous slacker vibe? The seasonal presence of more than a million Mexican free-tailed bats? How about those weird light towers? In any case, Austin, which has been producing mutants since acid scrambled Roky Erickson’s gray matter into a paranoid mess of green Martians and ham, has a new band of weirdos to brag about in Canoe. Justin Preston (keyboards and vocals), Zach Ground (guitar), and Joe Salinas (drums) may not be as wacky as Erickson—or even as scat-happy as the Butthole Surfers—but it takes a certain degree of perversity for a band to saddle its catchiest songs with titles such as “Panty Pile” and “Corndogs Are Our Friends.” With its obvious affection for such New Wave-y rock acts as the Cars and its heavy reliance on keyboards to fill out its otherwise stripped-down sound, Canoe sounds a bit like another Austin band, Spoon—that is, if the latter suddenly decided to take way more drugs and record at the bottom of a mine shaft. Still, there’s no denying the throbbing synthesizer riff that cuts through I Give You…Canoe!’s “Feed the Raccoon” like the siren of a police car, most likely on its way to bust the band for shamelessly ripping off the opening chords to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Or the marvelously cheesy synth-prog solo that adorns the anthemic “Do It So Well.” Or, for that matter, the pure Ocasek-style power of the syncopated “Don’t Tell.” Throughout, Preston contributes some suitably unhinged vocals—check out the short but far from sweet “Girlfriend,” in which he shrieks, “Girlfriend/You’re on your way/Out the door” over and over again—and the mix remains so murky and full of hiss that you’ll be reminded of Spot’s work during the golden age of SST. My War it ain’t, but I Give You…Canoe! is still something almost as essential: an exuberant, left-field reminder of a time when production values were for losers. —Michael Little