“We’re gonna rock, we’re gonna roll/ Got to get the stank off my hang low/ As Zep plays in the background …”
Returning after three years of silence with a third album, the band stands by its old habit of changing membership every album as well as its snide regard for ’70s hard rock, and then goes full bore. Almost completely exorcised are the references to grunge-era Jesus Lizard and the opaquely surreal lyrics, replaced with big chords and ham-fisted single entendres that are so crass that they charm like Spinal Tap. How can you argue with “Switchblade Sister: One Tough Nun” employing six elaborate euphemisms for penis?
Musically, Jon Gonnelli, Justin Morley, et al. have squeezed Houses of the Holy ’til the juice ran down their leg. Reinforced by Steve Albini’s no-frills production job, the guitar work comes off just as shameless as the lyrics, which singer Ralph Cuseglio (a burly Jersey lug with the performance habits of Prince) delivers with shrieks, screams, and sobs, like a 15-year-old Sunset Strip kid singing in his shower. Occasionally the band’s post-hardcore background creeps through, and the return of second guitarist Herb Wiley (who left the group for college after appearing on a handful of singles and splits) leads to occasional moments of syncopation, dissonance and depth that belie band’s hardcore roots.
The best cuts come when the dumb horny gringo meets the college rock nerd halfway, of course. The start-stop riffage and rolling Touch & Go-ish bassline of “Hot Strike” give way to glam licks and lines like “That little bird can shake a tail feather/ when she’s nesting, perched on top,” while closer “Honky, Please” defends the rockin’ cracker with the kind of tense interweaved guitar melodies the band abandoned back in ’96.
The message the band conveys is not so much “We’re smarter than we look,” as it is, “We’re not afraid to look stupid,” with an undertone of, “And we’ll get more ass than you, you snot-sucking pretentious little indie fuck.”
[DJ Fatkid is all for the rocket-socket]