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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Butthole Surfers: Piouhgd

BUTTHOLE SURFERS: PIOUHGD (1990)

1) Revolution Part 1; 2) Revolution Part 2; 3) Lonesome Bulldog; 4) Lonesome Bulldog II; 5) The Hurdy Gurdy Man; 6) Golden Showers; 7) Lonesome Bulldog III; 8) Blindman; 9) No, I'm Iron Man; 10) Something; 11) P.S.Y.; 12) Lonesome Bulldog IV; 13*) Barking Dogs.

Although a lot of critics seem to think that Piouhgd (on some releases, the title is spelt Pioughd, but I seriously doubt there is a «correct» way of spelling this) shows the beginning of the decline for the Surfers, I would disagree — in fact, I'd say that, in terms of being true to the spirit of the band, this is a major imporvement over Hairway To Steven. Where the latter was almost way too normal — and, consequently, boring — here they return to all sorts of banshee excesses that may be silly, meaningless, irritating, but give this band an actual reason to exist.

The opening bluesy jam of ʽRevolutionʼ may seem to start this off on the same note as ʽJimiʼ, but where ʽJimiʼ was meandering and murky and eventually just dissolved in an interminable yawn-inducing acoustic coda, this stuff is faster, punchier, and has a bite. The first part is all about Leary's fuzzy riff, a distant descendant of ʽFoxy Ladyʼ, losing some of that ancestral crunch but retaining all of its mind-melting psyche-delish-ness; and during the second part, it is slightly pushed aside to make way for a simpler, folksier rhythmic pattern and some arrogant vocals, as if they were switching from Hendrix mood into Jefferson Airplane mood — then the overdubs begin to pile up, and we get synthesizers, radio static, twenty layers of screaming, moaning, and blabbering, ringing telephones, wailing sirens, and all sorts of things to suggest a ʽRevolution 9ʼ type of chaos, only everything remains steadily underpinned with a rhythmic melody. In short, seems to be much more crazy stuff going on here than there ever was on ʽJimiʼ.

Other highlights here include ʽGolden Showersʼ, whose cheerful Farfisa organ and distorted sax, combined with the somewhat uncomfortable lyrical topic, would probably make this track eli­gible for a Bonzo Dog Band cover; ʽNo, I'm Iron Manʼ — another in a never-ending line of Black Sabbath deconstruc­tions, although this one, I think, only borrows the opening chord of the riff (it is the cavernously distorted vocals that actually make you think of ʽIron Manʼ, rather than the melody); and the hilarious remake of their old chestnut ʽSomethingʼ in the style of Jesus And Mary Chain, for no other reason, I guess, than to show how versatile the band's powers are.

There are relative lowlights, too — nobody seems to think much of their country send-up ʽLone­some Bulldogʼ, but I actually think that the silly song itself is merely a pretext for three more «variations», where they play the waltz theme with three different guitar tones/styles (my guess is inspired by Brian May first time around, by Lou Reed second time around, and... uh... is that Sabbath once again they are imitating in Part IV? Downtuning the guitar and bass at the same time? Could be, couldn' it?); which counts as funny in my book. The only real lowlight is pro­bably the «cover» of Donovan's ʽHurdy Gurdy Manʼ, where the main gimmick is a wobbly tre­molo effect on the vocals that will probably make you puke if your head is not too well balanced. But that's okay, we can take it.

I am not a major fan of the lengthy jam ʽP.S.Y.ʼ, because, once again, too much of it sounds like an homage to the psychedelic jam bands of old, from the Grateful Dead to Can: ass-kicking, yes, jaw-dropping — no. What is totally jaw-dropping, though, is the last track, which was only made available on the 1992 reissue of the album by Capitol Records: ʽBarking Dogsʼ is one of the greatest sonic nightmares that this, or, for that matter, any band has ever produced. Pinned against an unnerving pseudo-cello electronic pattern, you get banshee-howling guitars, blasts of white noise, agitated and/or screaming vocals, occasional bursts of gunfire, and, yes, barking dogs that crop up with the frightening regularity of enemies in some particularly creepy and bloody arcade game. This is actually their answer to ʽRevolution 9ʼ, and, frankly speaking, it's better, because the various samples and overdubs are much more thoughtfully put together — so that you get a very realistic picture of making a crazy nighttime run through the streets of a city gone mad with ravaging, burning, and killing. Technically, it should probably be called an «industrial» compo­sition, but emotionally, it goes way beyond «industrial» and into the realm of «apocalyptic».

If the album only had ʽBarking Dogsʼ on it, it would still be worth a thumbs up; fortunately, uneven as it is, and not breaking any radically new ground, its share of minor crazy-awesome ideas is still higher than its share of silly misfires and its share of "this-is-kinda-boring-when-will-this-ever-end" moments. A pretty damn good, unjustly overlooked album in their wobbly, perverted catalog.

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