Friday, November 07, 2014

APPRAISING THE BLEEDING OBVIOUS, PART 1

You really are going to have to forgive me for my belated appraisal here of the bleeding obvious, but throughout the next few posts I will discuss some recordings I have flogged within an inch of their lives the past 12 months - recordings of a perhaps, shall we say, obvious nature (for those so inclined). They have, in a sense, become an audio obsession, soothing my soul in troubled times. Firstly, let's tackle the Butthole Surfers' major label debut from 1993, Independent Worm Saloon...

I purchased this CD for a ha'penny approximately a year ago, an exchange of cash and goods brought on by a conversation I had with an old friend about how the Buttholes kinda ate shit after their classic albums on the Touch & Go label. Nay, he exclaimed: whilst 1990's Pioughd might have landed on earth as an uninspired clunker, the band then hit a new high w/ their John Paul Jones-produced major label debut (the album I speak of) and then chugged along with the commercially-successfully (though awful - in a kind of Beck/Fun Lovin' Criminals/Bloodhound Gang vein) Electric Larryland in 1995. The rest is history, and I won't speak of it. The point is thus: 1993's Independent Worm Saloon (IWS) came and went and I paid little attention. I couldn't fathom that the band could make an album I'd actually consider 'good' at that point in time and I dutifully ignored it.

I recall a review featured in Eric (Oblivian) Friedl's Wipe Out! fanzine at the time, and the gist was thus: not a total waste of time, but close to it, and so far as 'psychedelic punk' (or whatever) goes, the Buttholes had been usurped by the Boredoms in recent years, and at this stage they were treading water. But this is all merely context and back-peddling, for the early '90s were a different era, and I was a different man. The fact is, was and remains as so: Independent Worm Saloon, whilst far more straight-up 'rock' than anything the band had done before, was also the best thing the group had done since 1987's Locust Abortion Technician, and for my two cents remains the last great recording from the band known as the Butthole Surfers.

Sure, Gibby had been hanging around with Ministry's Al Jourgensen a lot at the time, recording music together and engaging in other, even more unsavoury pursuits, and that, uh, Ministry's 'sound' did rub off onto the Buttholes a touch, but the tough metallic delivery of the tunes here, augmented by the band's natural sense of fried psychedelia makes for an absolutely killer mix. When I recently described this record to a friend as a 'fantastic psych-metal' record, I think he got it all wrong (he turned his nose up as if I was describing a Limp Bizkit or Dream Theatre platter to him).

IWS has a swag of ace tunes, possibly the only drawback being that it's simply too long: being the Golden Age Of the Compact Disc, where it seemed necessary for every band to make their albums 50 - 60 minutes long, it clips at just over an hour. Still, with songs like the opener, 'Who was In My Room Last Night?' (oh lordy, there's Flea in that clip!) powering in, the proceedings kick off to a good start indeed. 'Tongue' sounds like it could've been lifted from Hairway To Steven, but has a much tougher sound and even breaks out ever-so-briefly into speed-metal riffery. 'Goofy's Concern' is one of the best tracks, showcasing Paul Leary's knack at the riff (let me also give honourable mention to 'Dust Devil'), and my fave remains 'Strawberry', a rocker which, despite its obvious 'big' sound, still vibrates like the band which made Rembrandt Pussyhorse. If anything, IWS is slightly one-dimensional - it features no goofy detours of the past, such as 'Kuntz', 'John E. Smoke' or 'Moving To Florida' (good tracks which open a bit of space) - but the dimension it inhabits isn't a bad place to be for an hour.

Hey, I could link every damn song to a Youtube clip, but you do the legwork. Or maybe you already own it and know everything I'm currently telling you. A bunch of '80s underground vets made the major-label move in the early '90s and some made serious artistic missteps in the process (some just made career missteps). That's for the history books. I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, but Independent Worm Saloon certainly ain't one of them. For a relentless slice of psychedelic Texan heavy metal bankrolled by the corporate demons at Capitol-EMI, you couldn't ask for more. It's a party-rock album par excellence.

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