"Rock is dead." The phrase is as tired as the sentiment. Sure, rock has had its ups and downs. After the initial Big Bang in the '50s, rock deteriorated into mawkish teen sludge. Four lads from Liverpool changed that in 1963. In the '70s, rock was being buried by disco and the self-indulgence of "progressive" rock. Four scruffy guys from Queens called the Ramones who could barely play their instruments showed up one day at a dump of a club in New York City by the name of CBGB and ignited the punk and new wave explosion with their Beach Boys-on-amphetamines two-minute whiplash songs. At the end of the '80s, rap, hip hop, and those awful MTV hair bands had rock flatlined. This time rocks savior was a disturbed man from Seattle, Kurt Cobain, whose loud angst dovetailed perfectly with the vibe of the slacker generation.
Here we are in 2000, and the situation looks pretty bleak once again. What we need is a band that plays honest, raw, hook-filled, intelligent rock. Dont look now, but weve got one -- Slobberbone. Their new album, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today, is a crackling, edgy reminder of how good rock still can be.
Slobberbone singer/songwriter/guitarist Brent Best insists "We are a rock band, pure and simple." Not quite. They do rock, but often with the help of unconventional instruments such as mandolin, banjo, pedal-steel guitar, fiddle, and tuba (yes, tuba). Their music can be described as cow punk, but sometimes the emphasis is on the cow, and sometimes its on the punk. As such, the record shares a lot with two other hard-country classics from the '90s: Crackers bratty, wisecracking Kerosene Hat, and the near-suicidal, woman-trouble rage of the Old 97's Too Far To Care.
Bests lyrics are acerbic, ironic, self-deprecating, and often quite funny. "Hey baby, its the end of the world/I hope you had fun" he growls in "Meltdown," the opening track. Acoustic guitars, fiddle, and mandolin clatter behind him. In fact, if the Pogues had been born in the USA, they would have sounded like this. Quick change: "Placemat Blues," the next cut, is a buzzing, electric homage to the Replacements, complete with honking saxes. "Trust Jesus" is a loping acoustic romp testifying to the tired mans blues. Snap: "Gimme Me Back My Dog" alternates between country picking and stomping rock and features a snarling guitar break; the song has nothing to do with canines.
"That Is All" contains the classic lines "Theres just no easy way to say/Everything you thought was right was wrong today/Move along, cause you cant stay, no way." How about that for a kiss-off? Mandolin and fuzzy electric guitar keep the hooky melody bouncing along. "Josephine" owes much to Crackers "Take Me Down to the Infirmary," both haunting slow acoustic/electric blues with snaky electric leads. "Lazy Guy" is a country slacker hoe-down, with its banjo lines and pedal-steel break; "Im a lazy guy/Im amazed at the way some people try and try and try/to erect and then perfect some kind of proof that theyre alive before they die." Thats attitude with attitude. "Bright Eyes Darkened" employs an exhilarating acoustic build up to a crunching electric chorus, with perfectly timed stops and starts. "Lumberlung" is reminiscent of the mostly acoustic title track of Kerosene Hat, full of sadness behind the bravado. "Some New Town" has Best professing, well, only the best for his ex, but he doesnt covey much credibility. "Pinball Song," featuring accordion and an oom-pah finale, is a fresh take on the alcohol blues.
Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today probably wont have a breakout song that will slap rock upside the head like the Ramones "Blitzkrieg Bop"or Nirvanas "Smells Like Teen Spirit" did in their time because of Slobberbones small-label and niche status, and thats a shame. Any one of a number of songs on the record could qualify. We need more guys like these. No, we need more guys like these and more people who listen to guys like these.
GO BACK TO: