(CD, Dogfingers Recordings)
As a long-time Tom Waits devotee, I can still remember the shock I received the first time I heard Captain Beefheart and realized that my favorite genius wasn't quite as original as I'd thought. It is easy to imagine a teenaged Boxcar Satan fan, starting his own record collection, stumbling across Trout Mask Replica and suffering the same revelation.
The important question in both cases isn't whether one artist is copping from another (the Cap'n owed `gut` bucket loads to Howlin' Wolf), but whether said artist is adding anything important to the mix. In both these cases, the answer is yes.
The Boxcar boys have filtered their brand of Beefy dada through the generation of amplified chaos that followed psychedelia — much of it created in Central Texas, as the regional punk movement gave us bands such as Scratch Acid. Although Crooked Mile March does reveal its roots more than the group's previous release, it is also more successful in gelling them into something compelling; in between riff-heavy numbers such as "Dead Mile," they plant a post-lounge gem like "Best Be Gone" or a prison worksong-meets-distorted megaphone rendition of "John the Revelator." Hell, they even throw in "Boxcardo's Hideaway," an atmospheric rambler with narration by Taco Land's Ram Ayala, just to make it easier for us to fit the disc into this issue's theme.
It's good, post-apocalyptic fun from beginning to end, capable of rattling your bones just as much as any contemporary aggro music — while injecting a Southern Gothic literary angle that'll keep your brain busy while it's being sloshed around your skull. Now if only Waits would tour through here so the fellas could open for him ... — John DeFore
The Sons of Hercules
I heard last week that if you want to see the Rolling Stones at the SBC Center this November it will set you back an average of $300 a ticket. Now, it wouldn't be fair to compare Sons of Hercules to the Stones, but there has gotta be a cheaper way to get your rocks off. Given the choice between shelling out 300 clams to sit with 18,000 yuppies barking "Satisfaction" while trying to stop their nosebleeds with wads of toilet paper, or throwing down 11 dollars to kick back on the front porch with a cold Shiner and crank the new Sons of Hercules record, Right Now — well, Section 308, Row BB, Seat 26, I hope that second mortgage on your house is worth it.
Right Now is as raw as a freshly amputated leg. Gloriously unproduced, these 11 anthems yank the nerve of garage-rock: over-driven, fuzzed-out, and sludged-up in the vein of their Nuggets-era ancestors — the New York Dolls, the Seeds, Radio Birdman. Although '60s garage-rock faded as punk took over, labels like Get Hip (which released the Sons' Get Lost record) and a flotilla of compilations such as the Killed By Death series sparked a revival in the late '80s and early '90s. As part of the second wave, Sons of Hercules meld garage and punk: They are the barons of badassdom with songs that are snide, snotty, and super-charged.
Vocalist Frank Puglise filters every word through his nose: "why cannn't they understannnd that you're feeling like you don't belonnng" he snarls defiantly on "Nowhere to Go." Guitarists Dale Hollon and Dave Pedersen anchor the disc with muddy chords and distorted licks, while behind them the furious rhythm section of drummer Kory Cook and bassist Casino El Camino thrusts and tugs, barely keeping the songs under control. Although Right Now blazes through a streak of sub-three-minute anthems, the band occasionally tinkers with the formula, slowing the tempo from Mach III to Mach I on "Trainwreck," adding harmonies on "I Wanna Know," jangly keys on "Hard Headed Woman," and frantic harmonica on "Digging Your Own Grave."
Primitive men, the Sons of Hercules swagger, not like Jagger, but like Cro-Mags with clubs. — Lisa Sorg</b>