Very few artists have remained on my MP3 player since I purchased it in January last year. Gravity Kills, Garbage, the Ramones, The Pretty Reckless, The Descendents, The Dead Milkmen, Violent Femmes and, of course, the Butthole Surfers.
It’s strange to sit back and think of the other artists that have come and gone over the 15 months and why these few have been mainstays. I’m sure some of it is just dumb luck. I tend to listen to my MP3’s on shuffle at work and my player overloads me with much Gravity Kills or Pretty Reckless. Otherwise I would have tired of them and removed them. Due to my new-found love of punk The Descendents and Dead Milkmen will probably be on there for another year and how could I ever tire of Garbage, The Ramones or Violent Femmes?
But the Butthole Surfers are a somewhat different animal. I suppose the greatest thing about the album Electriclarryland is the diversity. It’s not an album of one song, or even one genre, but an interesting collection of strangeness. I’m not a fan of noise rock. Bands like Sonic Youth and Black Flag have never been able to hold my interest. And the Surfers’ previous album Independent Worm Saloon suffers for being a bit too noisy. But they started mixing that noise with great pop hooks and continued down that path until they created something that does an even better job of mixing noise punk and pop rock than Nirvana’s In Utero.
Some of the noisier rocker’s are indispensable. Opener “Birds” and “Ulcer Breakout” are fun, full throttle songs that test my ability to stand still with the latter being a love song to engines that reminds me of singer Gibby Haynes’ appearance on Ministry’s “Jesus Built My Hot Rod.”
I’ve never understood why “Pepper” was the single from this album. I enjoy that weird, spoken word, one note song; but I always thought the track before it, “Cough Syrup,” was far superior. Even “Ah Ha,” which appeared much later on the album was a much better toe tapper.
Paul Leary was never considered a guitar god, but maybe that’s just because not a lot of people have heard his licks on “Thermador.” With the great lyric “Everybody knows freedom, you’ll find it inside your head yeah/Everybody knows Jesus, he’ll be there when you are dead yeah” it befuddles me that this track never broke the top 40.
“TV Star” is one of the most hilarious songs on the album. A lovely ballad featuring steel guitar about being in love with a popular sitcom actress then ending it by saying his in love with another one… who came out as gay about a year after this album was released. I just wish I’d been able to publicly declare my love for Ellen Page in such a way.
And yet, there’s still room for some psychedelic noise. “My Brother’s Wife” is a strange track that doesn’t really do anything or go anywhere, but it is better (or at least shorter than) “Revolution 9.” “Let’s Talk About Cars” always kind of confuses me. I don’t speak French so I’m unsure if they really are talking about cars.
“The Lord Is A Monkey” is a semi-experimental tune with Haynes rapping. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite tracks. I don’t like rap much, but something about Gibby Haynes’ rap voice really does it for me.
And now that I listen to the album in it’s entirety and in order I have to say that the sequencing is phenomenal. The worst two songs on the album are at the very end. “L.A.” is another hardcore punk rocker that’s descent, but suffers from too much vocal effects. “Space” is a good outro. Just a few minutes of a slow, quiet guitar arpeggios followed by some heavy riffing. It’s not awful, but it’s not really worth sitting around for. “Space” is like the credits of this album. You can leave while it’s playing, and you’ll still have gotten your money’s worth.