Author Archives: Michael H. Little

Graded on a Curve:
No Trend,
Too Many Humans/
Teen Love

Drag City Records’ May 29 release of the No Trend Too Many Humans/Teen Love box set comes during a resurgence of interest in the Ashton, Maryland hardcore band turned three-ring circus. While the band went on to record three additional LPs and an EP with Lydia Lunch, the Drag City compilation chronicles the band’s early years, when their Flipper meets PiL grind and black humor made them the enfants terribles of Washington, DC’s hardcore scene.

I exchanged e-mails with the duo who co-produced the set: former No Trend guitarist Buck Parr (who played with the band in 1985-86) and writer Jordan Mamone, and together they cast light on how the project came about. But first, here’s Parr’s rundown of the box set’s contents:

“The box set includes exact vinyl facsimiles of the Too Many Humans LP and the “Teen Love” 7″ and 12″ right down to the original inserts, and how things are folded. It comes with 40-page booklet with a great interview I did (tooting my own horn, but whatever), plus the French Too Many Humans bootleg book, one of the ‘lost’ dance books, and all manner of other nonsense. (The box set also includes flyers from a variety of shows, as well as bonus CDs consisting of demos and live recordings from San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens and LA’s Cathay de Grande.) Comedian Neil Hamburger (aka Gregg Turkington) actually recorded one of these shows. How weird is that?”

“For decades,” Parr added, “people had been writing to Jeff (band leader Jeff Mentges) in an effort to re-release the material on this set (the Too Many Humans LP and the “Teen Love” EP). Jeff, for reasons known only to himself, would refer these inquiries to me. I’d check them out–some of them seemed rather worthy–and report back to Jeff, who would invariably kill the idea. He really had little interest in seeing this material out again. He’s never been altogether concerned with the band’s legacy and saw releasing old material as pointless.”

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Graded on a Curve: Emerson, Lake & Palmer,

It’s the coup of the century! I’m talking about my exclusive interview with the shade of the late Greg Lake, singer, bassist and guitarist of the greatest pomp rock band in history, Emerson, Lake & Palmer! Greg had a prior commitment (“I’m off to jam with Rachmaninoff”) but he set aside a few moments from his busy schedule to answer a few questions. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

For starters, I would just like to say how much I love “Nights in White Satin.”

GL: That was by the Moody Blues.

My bad. “Lucky Man” then. And that song, I can’t remember the name of it, that starts “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.” Are you talking about the song, which seems to go on forever?

I see “Karn Evil 9″ a a stripped-to-the-basics rock ’n’ roller. We wrote it in the spirit of Carl Perkins.

I hear that simplicity in all of your work. It has an almost garage-like feel that brings to mind the Standells’“Dirty Water.” With Hammond organ, St. Mark’s Church organ, piano, celesta, and Moog modular synthesizer thrown in.

We liked to think we were playing Chuck Berry with a tip of the old orchestra to Tchaikovsky.

Some would say your music is pretentious.

Is it our fault we were the first band to realize the potential of artificially inseminating rock with the jism of classical music? Why restrain yourself to playing three chords when you could be playing 4017?

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Graded on a Curve: Ramones, Ramones

Joey Ramone would have turned 69 today. We remember him fondly with this look back from our archives.Ed.

It’s easy to take this the Ramones’ landmark 1976 self-titled debut too seriously. Sure, it signaled a seismic shift in rock music, exploding like an M80 in the minds of every cretinous young thing who’d had it up to here with the pompous, bloated likes of ELP, Queen, and the Eagles. And sure, this baby is often celebrated as the first real punk rock LP.

But so far as declarations of war go, Ramones is a hilarious one. On it the most famous band to ever come out of Forest Hills, Queens state their demands (they wanna be your boyfriend and they wanna sniff some glue; they don’t wanna go down to the basement and they don’t wanna walk around with you), dabble with fascism (“I’m a Nazi schatze”), and beat on the brat with a baseball bat. The Ramones weren’t the first NYC band to give voice to the inchoate yearnings of teengenerates everywhere; the Dictators got there first with 1975’s Go Girl Crazy!, and they deserve their due. 

But unlike Handsome Dick Manitoba and Company the Ramones got their yucks playing their songs at tempos that boggled the imagination; I saw the Ramones early on, without having ever heard a single note of their music, and the experience bordered on the traumatic.

The songs–which segued one into the other with nary a pause–went by at an insane, buzzsaw blur that night, obfuscating what is obvious to anyone who listens to the album now–that the Ramones mated their 160 beats per minute ferocity to an impeccable pop sense that gives many of these songs the loving feel of good bubblegum.

The Ramones won their rep by keeping their songs nasty, brutish and short. But their secret ingredient was melody; their songs are both catchy and likable, and that’s what makes Ramones sound as fresh today as it did the day it hit the streets.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Mekons,
The Mekons Rock ‘N’ Roll

It’s a rare occasion for the TVD reviews team to have weighed in on the same LP several years apart. We put them side by side today—with surprisingly similar results.Ed.

You don’t have to be a dyed in the wool Marxist to know that rock ’n’ roll is product—just another consumer item to be consumed by consumers who live to consume. It’s everybody’s not-so-secret dirty secret, as obvious as a turd suspended in Jello, but when push comes to shove only a limited number of bands—I can think of the Minutemen, the Fall, and Fugazi off the top of my head—have addressed the issue both in the way they do business and as subject matter in their songs. And no band has ever done it with such passion, fatalistic humor, and rage as The Mekons do on their 1989 walk on the riled side, The Mekons Rock n’ Roll.

Formedon in 1977 by a rowdy bunch of University of Leeds art students, the Mekons combined rank amateurism, left-wing politics, and a wry sense of humor (the title of their 1979 full-length debut, The Quality of Mercy is Not Strenen, doesn’t make much sense until the album cover reveals it to be a monkeys at typewriters producing Shakespeare joke). The Mekons gradually evolved, practically inventing alt-country in the process, but returned to their punk roots (at a stage in their career when most bands have settled into comfortable conformity) to produce what is both a howl of unbridled savagery and probably their masterpiece.

Upon first listen, The Mekons Rock n’ Roll is exactly what it purports to be—a rough and raucous celebration of the glories of rock ‘n’ roll. Except it isn’t. What it is a sly critique of rock as commodity, of sex as commodity, of a world where everything is commodity—a veritable “Empire of the Senseless,” to cite just one of the wonderfully intelligent and derisory tunes on this savage assault on capitalism disguised as an LP. “They took away our films and tapes and notebooks/But it’s ok ‘cos we’ve self-censored this song,” sneers Tom Greenhalgh, before running down a long list of the lies and deceits and casual everyday treacheries that constitute life in a materialistic society where everything has its price. As for the song itself, it boasts a great chorus, one wonderful melodica, and some truly brilliant fiddle by the wonderful Susie Honeyman.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Pretty Things,
Greatest Hits

Today we remember Phil May, The Pretty Things lead singer who passed away on Friday, May 15, 2020.

Mention England’s The Pretty Things, and most people will immediately direct your attention to 1968’s S.F. Sorrow, one of Western Civilization’s first rock operas (it preceded The Who’s Tommy by six months). Me, I prefer the band’s earlier, hard-driving R&B songs like “Rosalyn,” “Midnight to Six Man,” and “L.S.D.”

The pre-S.F. Sorrow Pretty Things specialized in a frenetic raunch-n-roll that split the difference between the Rolling Stones and Them. Powered by Phil May’s feral vocals and May’s stab to the heart guitar, the band’s sound was gritty as a mouthful of gravel, and you can hear them (as well as the band’s later psychedelic material) on 2017’s double LP Greatest Hits. Its 25 songs track the band from its R&B and blues-based early years through 1970’s Parachute, and make clear that Pretty Things were key players in the history of English rock ’n’ roll.

The 1964-66 Pretty Things were every bit the bad boys the Stones and The Who were, and quickly won a reputation for sowing chaos wherever they went. May claimed to have the longest hair in the UK; drummer Viv Prince’s mad behavior anticipated those of Keith Moon (and finally got hims sacked from the band). The band’s penchant for mayhem culminated in a 1965 stint in New Zealand, where they provoked as much outrage (and bad publicity) as The Who would later.

The early Pretty Things are best remembered for the 1964 song “Rosalyn,” which David Bowie covered on his 1973 LP Pinups. Bowie’s version reproduces the song’s primitive Bo Diddley beat, but Bowie’s vocals are positively enervated next to May’s Dionysian alley cat yowl. Ditto Pretty Thing’s 1964 hit “Don’t Bring Me Down.” Their version is furious, harmonica-fueled thing, and May goes at it in a full-throttle snarl. Bowie reproduces the song’s anarchic energy, but his singing’s prim, thin, mannered. It’s a case of savage vs. fop, and the savage wins hands down.

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Graded on a Curve: Teenage Jesus and
the Jerks,
Live 1977–1979

In 1979 I was living out my lifelong dream of a being a failed painter in a rat-infected loft on the Lower East Side when I first saw Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Their 3-minute 78-song set changed my life.

The next day I gathered up the money I was going to spend on bread and bologna and put down a deposit on a guitar and a blown amp. I went home and tuned the guitar to the key of dreadful, tortured it with a pair of plyers until it confessed, then dropped it into my bathtub where it sizzled, blacking out the entirety of Alphabet City.

And just like that I was a No Wave Star.

Except I wasn’t and Lydia Lunch told me so. I played her something and she said, “Look, I appreciate all the bologna you’ve given me over the years, but there’s a big difference between good shit and bad shit and your shit is probably the worst shit I’ve heard in my entire life.”

I was so hurt I cut off her bologna supply and moped around the loft pretending to be a nihilist. After nine hours of deliberation I decided I was going to buy some heroin and become a junkie, but ended up spending the money on a TV Guide instead.

After returning to the loft I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong. I practiced for exactly 13 minutes per day just like everybody else, and owned the exact same La Monte Young album they owned but never listened to. I used mine as an impromptu lap table.

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Graded on a Curve:
To Whom It May Consume

The only time I saw legendary DC hardcore crowd displeasers 9353, vocalist Bruce Merkle spent the entire set tied to a chair. If that doesn’t give you an idea of how extraordinarily bizarre they were, listen to their music.

Like fellow scene outcasts No Trend, 9353 went out of their way to mock the unwritten shibboleths dictating the behavior of the Dischord Records crowd. 9353 gave the old middle digit to sincerity, seriousness, self-righteousness, responsibility, common decency, virulent puritanism, inbred tribalism, and sexually repressed male teenage hormonal rage. No wonder many of your earnest Emo progenitors hated the black-hearted jesters in 9353–they didn’t flex your head so much as fuck with it.

I was as much a victim as anybody. If my finely tuned sense of the absurd was in accordance with theirs (the repeated mantra of “Famous Last Words” goes “It’s okay, it’s not loaded/I’m a good driver, don’t worry honey”), their music befuddled me. It was totally out of sync with the times, and just the sort of thing to piss off audiences looking to see the latest Positive Force band do some fancy sermonizing. 9353 may as well have crash landed on the National Mall in a UFO, before emerging in paisley leisure suits.

Stylistically speaking, the songs on 9353’s 1984 debut To Whom It May Consume run the gamut. “Color Anxiety” and “Spooky Room” are mutant new wave fuckabouts. “Famous Last Words” and “Ghost” evoke John Lydon and Public Image Ltd. “Egnossponge” is a spaced-out Krautrock extravaganza. “Test Life” and “Industry” are warp-speed loony-tunes jaw droppers.

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Graded on a Curve:
Little Richard, Little Richard’s Greatest Hits: Recorded Live

Today we remember rock and roll’s architect, pioneer, and legend Little Richard who died Saturday May 9, 2020 with this look back from our archives.Ed.

An American original if ever there was one, Little Richard (aka Richard Wayne Penniman) remains one of the most charismatic and exciting performers in the history of rock and roll. From his days in Macon, Georgia’s Pentecostal churches, where as a youth he was once banned from singing because his “screaming and hollering” were deemed too loud, to his days touring with traveling shows and singing for Macon’s own prophet and spiritualist Doctor Nubilio, who went about in a turban, colorful cape, and black stick (to say nothing of a “devil’s child,” in the form of a desiccated corpse of a baby with claw feet and horns on his head), Little Richard wowed ‘em all until he finally found his way to Specialty Records, where in September 1955 he recorded the song that would help make him an immortal, “Tutti Frutti.”

And the rest is history. Little Richard’s live performances were so powerful and borderline raunchy (by the standards of the time, that is) that he even helped to bring down the color barrier; his shows drew both blacks and whites, who started off in the mandatory racially segregated areas of the clubs he played but wound up dancing together by the time he was done. He was also known for his outrageous stage garb, including makeup as well as suits studded with semi-precious stones and sequins, and his wild performances and crazed persona soon led women to throw their underwear on stage, much to the dismay and chagrin of such rabid dog segregationists as the North Alabama’s White Citizen Council.

By the time his first LP was released Little Richard was already a millionaire and living in a mansion in Los Angeles next to the boxer Joe Louis. But in 1957 the self-described “omnisexual” who once said, “The only thing I like better than a big penis is a bigger penis” renounced his “sinful” ways and announced his intention to become a preacher of the gospel, which he did after studying theology at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. He ultimately returned to secular music, and to secular hobbies, praise be to God, in 1962, and his performances were so outrageously successful that before long the Beatles were opening for him.

And I could go on, but I want to talk some about 1967’s Little Richard’s Greatest Hits: Recorded Live, which was recorded “live” for the Okeh label at CBS studios in Hollywood. He blesses us with most of his best tunes, although I’m personally hurt that he didn’t see fit to add “Keep a Knockin’” and “Rip It Up,” both of which are personal favorites. But the energy! The man is powered by rocket fuel, and if he brags on himself now and again he has every right. “Lucille” sounds like it’s being played triple time, and when he goes, “Woooo!” it’s enough to give you shivers. The same goes for “Tutti Frutti,” which is to say it’s supercharged, and on which he screams, shouts, and delivers his trademark, “Womp bomp a mooma ba lop bam boom!” As for the hard-charging “The Girl Can’t Help It,” it practically seethes with sensuality, but sounds like a slow groove compared to “Lucille” and “Tutti Frutti.”

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Graded on a Curve:
Holy Diver

There are 666 things you need to know about Ronnie James Dio.

1. Ronnie is widely credited as having invented the “Sign of the Horns.” Under patent law, you are legally obliged to pay Ronnie 15 cents every time you use it. Per hand.

2. Fact: In 2003 Dio lost part of his thumb to what he called a “killer garden gnome.” Afterwards Ronnie tossed the gnome in the trash, but it kept coming back. “It’s out there,” he would tell friends, peeking out the window. “Waiting. Just waiting.”

3. Ronnie was a big medieval music fan and used to get together with former Rainbow band mate and fellow medievalist Ritchie Blackmore to play flute, sing madrigals, and contract the Black Plague.

4. In a 1991 poll kindergartners were asked what historical personage they would least want to see added to the cast of Sesame Street. Ronnie James Dio came in next to last, just before Adolf Hitler.

5. Ronnie, who was 5′ 4″, was once quoted as saying, “I always wanted to be a basketball player.” He then added, “Preferably with the Delaware Dwarves.”

6. Dio’s first band was called Elf. The name led to a revolt in the Elven community. Haldir, Elf of Lothlórien, told his troops, “We must crush the man on the Misty Mountain before he joins Black Sabbath and lays waste to the band that bequeathed us “Fairies Wear Boots.”

7. The biggest difference between Dio and his predecessor in Black Sabbath was that Dio didn’t have a serious ant addiction.

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Graded on a Curve:
No Trend,
Tritonian Nash-Vegas Polyester Complex

As the forthcoming Drag City Records’ box set Too Many Humans/Teen Love will make clear, No Trend was the turd in the punch bowl of Washington, DC’s depressingly earnest hardcore scene. The Ashton, Maryland No Wave band countered the scene’s emphasis on emotional sincerity, integrity, puritanism, and commitment to social issues with cynicism, black humor, and scorn, and they took great pleasure in ridiculing their musical peers–”Hanging Out in Georgetown” (sample line: “Hanging out in Georgetown/Being an asshole”) took direct aim at the breeding ground of bands like Minor Threat, Faith, and SOA.

No Trend’s harsh sound and nihilistic tendencies made them persona non grata on the DC hardcore scene, and its official curators have treated them accordingly. You’ll find nary a mention of them in Scott Crawfords’s 2014 film documentary Salad Days, and they receive but a grudging mention in Mark Anderson’s 2009 book of oral recollections, Dance of Days.

And don’t for a moment think their omission was due to the fact that they hailed from distant Ashton. Plenty of relative outsiders found their way on to both documentaries–it was No Trend’s refusal to play by DC rules that resulted in their being airbrushed out of the picture, just as Josef Stalin erased the images of purged apparatchiks from official photographs.

Early No Trend attracted a small but dedicated fan base attracted by the band’s radical Flipper-like tempos and anti-humanist bile; while song titles like “Too Many Humans,” “Cancer,” “Die,” and “Mass Sterilization Caused by Venereal Disease” were coins of the realm in certain segments of the hardcore population, No Trend sounded serious. Or maybe they were joking; “Teen Love,” the song they’re best remembered for, is a hilarious commentary on conformist adolescent culture whose story line falls into the great death by car crash tradition of Jan and Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve.”

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Graded on a Curve:
Danzig, Danzig

A very scary thing happened to Glenn Danzig on the corpse strewn road from cartoon horrorcore band the Misfits and his band Danzig’s eponymous 1988 debut–he began to sing. And over the years his vocals have metastasized into a full-blown croon; I present you, as Exhibit A, with this year’s Danzig Sings Elvis. Can Danzig Sings Sinatra be far behind?

The problem is, Danzig’s no crooner. He’s a cross between Jim Morrison (sans sex appeal), Billy Idol (sans both sex appeal and snarling lip), and a mating tree frog (sans both sex appeal and third eyelid). Although he may have the third eyelid–I’ve never summoned up the courage to check.

Fans (and they are legion) explain away the difference between Glenn’s vocals with the Misfits and those with Danzig by asserting (and not without merit) that the former was a hardcore band while the latter’s a metal one. With hardcore, an ability to sing can actually dash your career hopes; on the other hand, a metal vocalist who can’t sing risks ending up in a spandex bee suit in a Stryper cover band. Danzig managed, if barely, to make the transition, but still sounds like he’s in a competition with Henry Rollins to prove who’s got the most wooden delivery in rock.

But enough carping about Danzig’s voice–let us turn to his band’s music, which is hardly the stuff of genius. My pal Charlie King summed up Danzig by calling them “The world’s lowest hanging fruit,” and this, he was careful to add, “from a confirmed lover of all things Misfits.” Glenn Danzig’s songwriting is serviceable at best, the band’s execution suitably brutal but nothing to write your congresswoman about.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Allman Brothers Band, Win, Lose or Draw

On this 1975 bad hand of an album, the Allman Brothers proved, if nothing else, they’re lousy poker players. They went all in without so much as a single pair to play, and by so doing lost the big stack of chips they’d won on such legendary LPs as 1971’s Live at the Fillmore East, 1972’s Eat a Peach, and 1973’s Brothers and Sisters. In the words of a certain country musician turned roast chicken restaurant magnate, you’ve got know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, and know when to run away. The Allman Brothers should have run like Hell.

Band fractures were part of it. Gregg Allman had run off to LA to marry Cher, who quickly realized she had a train wreck on her hands and gave him the heave-ho in about as much time as it takes to mow your lawn. The rest of the guys resented his desertion, most likely because they’d never thought to marry Cher, and slapped this shitty collection of half-ass songs together to get back at him. I’m making all of this up, mind you, but it’s always hard to lay a finger on why a legendary band at the top of its form up and decides to suck.

The songs on Win, Lose or Draw aspire to competence and almost succeed–for the large part they’re C- minus stuff, and guitarist/vocalist Dickey Betts bears a large part of the blame. The best the same fella who gave us “Ramblin’ Man,” “Blue Sky,” “Melissa,” and “Jessica” can do is the formulaic “Just Another Love Song,” the desultory “Louisiana Lou and Three Card Monty John,” and the 14–plus-minutes jam “High Falls.”

Paul McCartney famously asserted that there’s nothing wrong with silly love songs, but he had nothing to say about dull ones like “Just Another Love Song.” When it comes to lovelorn Southern boys I’ll take the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Heard It in a Love Song” any day. In a similar vein, “Louisiana Lou and Three Card Monty John” is a musical scam and does a grave disservice to grifters and card sharks everywhere, which isn’t to say Betts’ guitar ain’t fetching. As for the instrumental “High Falls,” it’s a pale imitation of “Jessica,” but I can think of worse ways to spend 14 minutes. Betts plays a lot of tasty licks, but the song lacks the swing of “Jessica,” to say nothing of its sheer joy factor.

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Graded on a Curve: Killdozer,
Twelve Point Buck

“They say write what you know,” Killdozer’s Michael Gerald told me in an e-mail interview a while back, “and what I knew were idiots.”

But Gerald didn’t stop there. Over the Madison, Wisconsin band’s 11-year career, he also wrote about murderous sociopaths, people outraged by poor customer service, America’s brutality in the Gulf War, a cop who turns out to be one cool dude, victims of horrible work-related accidents, cold-hearted capitalist exploiters and their hapless victims, and a socialist dog named Knuckles who in addition to other good deeds achieves martyrdom by throwing himself in front of an assassin’s bullet intended for the kindly crippled boy who saved him.

On Killdozer’s masterpiece, 1987’s Twelve Point Buck, Gerald utilizes his trademark stentorian “mouth that roared” vocals to tell a wide array of Wisconsin Gothic tales, each and every one of them designed to amuse and appall. Behind him the band (Gerald plays bass, and the brothers Bill and Dan Hobson play guitar and drums respectively) grinds away, as implacable and unrelenting as the modified bulldozer Marvin John Heemeyer used to wreak havoc in Gransby, Colorado in 2004. (In point of fact the band took their name not from Heemeyers’s weapon of jerry-rigged destruction, but from the 1944 sci-fi novella of the same name by Thomas Sturgeon).

Twelve Point Buck’s first track is “New Pants and Shirt,” which opens with one of the most despicable descriptions of motherly love ever written:

“Enter the forty-nine gates of uncleanliness
Said she, pushing up her skirt
I held my breath against her fetidness
As I gazed upon the swinish flirt.”

I like to compare these lines with Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles,” on which Marty Balin bequethes us the immoral lines, “I had a taste of the real world/When I went down on you.” The one posits oral sex as a labial gateway to reality; the other’s enough to put you off cunnilingus forever.

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Graded on a Curve:
Be Bop Deluxe,
Axe Victim

Some people are just in the right place at the wrong time. But few have been as unfortunate as Bill Nelson, the front man of English rock band Be Bop Deluxe.

Be Bop Deluxe put out a miraculously good debut LP, 1974’s Axe Victim, which suffered due to circumstances beyond its control. To wit, it was a glam record released at around the same time as David Bowie’s final stab at glitter rock, Diamond Dogs. This shouldn’t have been a big deal; England was awash in glam bands at the time, many of them enormously successful. No, what really did Nelson and Be Bop Deluxe in was the fact that Axe Victim bore a more than passing resemblance to the work of Mr. Bowie, which led critics to lambast Be Bop Deluxe as mere copycats.

As a result, Axe Victim has never gotten its fair due as a great glam album, on a par with Brian Eno’s “rock” albums, Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes, or the four albums attributed to Ziggy Stardust and the other personae Bowie adopted during the Glam Age, when it seemed every wild young thing in England was sashaying about in glitter-encrusted platform boots and home-made space suits that screamed, “Look at me! I’m from Venus!”

Nelson founded Be Bop Deluxe in 1972 in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. A little history—Wakefield was dubbed the “Merrie City” in the Middle Ages, and “the perfect place to lose an eye” during the height of football hooliganism in the 1980s. (Okay, so I made that last part up.) The band was composed of Nelson on lead vocals, guitars, and keyboards; Ian Parkin on rhythm and acoustic guitars and organ; Robert Bryan on bass; and Nicolas Chatterton-Dew on drums, backing vocals, and incredibly pretentious name. Together they set about ingratiating themselves into the glam scene that was all the rage at the time, and they hit all the right notes on Axe Victim, which benefitted greatly from Nelson’s virtuosity on guitar.

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Graded on a Curve: Butthole Surfers,
Locust Abortion Technician

Recorded with a single microphone and an 8-track recorder in the Butthole Surfers’ home studio in Austin, Texas, presumably with band dog Mark Farner in attendance, 1987’s Locust Abortion Technician remains a testimony to what a dedicated few can achieve in service of human depravity and bad taste. It’s always nice to run across a band that would appall John Waters.

A mutant metal masterpiece released at a time when the likes of U2, Sting, and Echo & the Bunnymen ruled the world, Locust Abortion Technician cemented the Butthole Surfers’ “acid on their morning cornflakes” reputation as a psychotic traveling three-ring circus. It’s all there on the LP’s John Wayne Gacy-inspired cover, which depicts a pair of laughing clowns and one decidedly nervous dog. The only thing more frightening than a clown is two clowns, and one can’t help but fear for the poor pooch’s safety.

The Butthole Surfers established their bona fides as post-hardcore’s most interesting case study of abnormal psychology thanks to one-time Trinity University Accounting Student of the Year Gibby Haynes’ deranged stage antics and such dada inspired classics as “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey Oswald’s Grave” and “The Revenge of Anus Presley.” On Locust Abortion Technician they took a swan dive into full-blown dementia with their fusion of bad trip psychedelia and syphilitic bump and grind, defying the predictions of the mental health community that they would soon descend into incurable schizophrenia and have to be permanently institutionalized.

On Black Sabbath parody “Sweet Loaf” Paul Leary goes back and forth between a monstrous earache my eye riff and some pretty guitar blandishments while Haynes–the son of Dallas-based children’s TV host “Mr. Peppermint”–comes on like a straight-jacketed berserker in a padded echo chamber. On the two count ‘em two versions of “Graveyard,” Leary goes full distortion over the ominous drumming of King Coffey and Teresa Nervosa while Haynes does a perfect picture impersonation of the Lord of the Flies growling through a broken megaphone from the ninth circle of Hell.

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