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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Butthole Surfers: Locust Abortion Technician

BUTTHOLE SURFERS: LOCUST ABORTION TECHNICIAN (1987)

1) Sweat Loaf; 2) Pittsburg To Lebanon; 3) Weber; 4) Hay; 5) Human Cannonball; 6) U.S.S.A; 7) The O-Men; 8) Kuntz; 9) Graveyard; 10) 22 Going On 23.

Okay, this time they're really just taking random words out of a dictionary. In fact, they're taking random stuff out of everywhere, and piling it all up as long as it sounds heavy, dark, weird, dis­turbing, and humorous at the same time. Now do not get me wrong: if something sounds heavy, dark, weird, disturbing, and humorous at the same time, that does not necessarily mean that it's good — which should be kind of obvious to anybody who ever tried emptying the entire contents of a fully stocked refrigerator into one big bowl and tasting on the contents. In fact, I am still trying to understand whether this album has any artistic merits, and it is even harder than with Rembrandt Pussyhorse, because on there, they at least tried to hook us with verbal content. On Locust Abortion Technician, there is not a lot of words in the first place, and what little there is does not even make surrealist sense.

«Bad acid trip» is a typical description when it comes to discussing this record, but so many pieces of music have been described as sonic equivalents of «bad acid trips», it's hardly distinc­tive any more — as well as most likely meaningless to those of us who have never had bad acid trips. «Evil clown music» is more like it, especially when you take the album sleeve into consi­deration — or, perhaps, «Zen music», if you take «Zen» not in its misguided meditative interpre­tation, but in the proper meaning of «revelation through shock». Almost any of these composi­tions / sonic collages could theoretically awaken one of the many beasts inside you, as the Surfers cleverly choose «tasty» soundbites and stack them on top of each other or twirl them around each other and then invite you to step into the unknown and tell them what it is that you feel, as they deconstruct and distort musical reality.

I wonder what Tony Iommi would say about ʽSweet Loafʼ, a six-minute «tribute» not just to the main riff of Sabbath's ʽSweet Leafʼ, but to the basic construction principle of Master Of Reality in general — brutal-heavy parts being divided by soft acoustic interludes for the sake of sharper contrast. Silly it may be, but it definitely sounds more «trippy» than the original — which, if you remember, was actually an anthem to marijuana, and so, in a sense, you could say that the Surfers stay more true to the original spirit of the song than Sabbath themselves. And what would the ori­ginal heavy electric bluesmen from Beck to Page say about ʽPittsburg To Lebanonʼ, an exercise in distorting the 12-bar structure to the fuzziest extremes of 1987? And what would the original masters of psychedelic guitar say to ʽWeberʼ, thirty seconds of craziest, shrilliest lead guitar over­dubs ever that make Cream, Hendrix, and even the Stooges seem like studio wimps?

Okay, they'd all probably just laugh it off, and they'd have their reasons. But even on the least well structured numbers here, the Surfers do their best to exacerbate everything, and they do it on a highly professional level: this is not just a bunch of kids giggling with the recording controls, these are experts that crank up to 11 whatever it is that they are cranking. In fact, the album's only track that does superficially resemble a «song», the speedy rocker ʽHuman Cannonballʼ, might be the weakest link — it just sounds way too normal for this record. It could have been recorded by, I dunno, Bad Religion, for instance. Whereas something like ʽKuntzʼ — a totally bizarre mix of East European and Southeast Asian motives (including a vocal track that they dragged off some Thai pop song) — as deranged as it is, could only come from the inexhaustible trickster mind of Gibby Haynes. And Leary's guitar work on ʽGraveyardʼ showcases his serious chops as a blues guitarist (that solo would be well respected on any classic blues-rock record), but it is more im­portant how every once in a while he dissolves the notes in a puddle of hysterical noise, while Haynes is mumbling black magic incantations or something in the background.

It helps that the album is short (barely half an hour in length) and yet its contents are so diverse; it also helps that there is practically no toilet humor (or if there is, it's probably in Thai); and it cer­tainly helps that, deep down inside, these guys are really just good old fans of the classics — had they been worshippers of avantgarde icons like Henry Cow, this would have been «weirdness squared», but when you take Sabbath and Zeppelin as your points of entry, well, from a certain cynical point of view, these guys are just begging to be deconstructed to some such effect. Not that Locust Abortion Technician cannot be enj... uh, assimilated on its own, without any know­ledge of its derivational base. But I don't believe that Haynes himself ever wanted you to do something like that — most likely, he'd tell you to go do your psychedelic, metallic, and punkish homework first, and then get back to him later. In any case, my thumbs up here should only be relevant if one does not regard the record as a stand-alone thing, but sees it as a crooked mirror projection of its predecessors. As a stand-alone thing, I would not be qualified to judge it anyway. Besides, it's not 1987 any more — these days, what are the chances of anyone hearing ʽSweet Loafʼ before ʽSweet Leafʼ, rather than after? (Unless, of course, the anyone in question is a 12-year old with a particularly sick mind, surfing for buttholes on the Internet).

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