Recordings

Lutefisk
Burn in Hell Fuckers!
(Bong Load Custom)

Imagine yourself in a homemade rocket. Reaching down to the spacestereo there and plunking in Lutefisk's latest, Burn in Hell Fuckers! "Tin Man's Cue" comes on with a quiet country-chord intro and some nice manly vocals singing about winners, losers, and a self-inflated failed suicide. By the time you reach the chorus, you're breaking up. But you don't care; you're too busy taking hits off the spacebong and singing into your headset mike (even if you don't know the lyrics). You close your eyes and crumble into a deep cosmic glam pop vacuum as your little rocket disintegrates.

Now that's stadium-quality distraction. Which Lutefisk deliver unbelievably well when they're not distracting themselves -- i.e., boring into the center of your cranium with an endless looping screeching bleeping self-indulgent racket. But these two opposing elements are essential to their Big Rawk escape package, which even Lutefisk don't take too seriously. I'll point to their goofy monikers: Dallas Don (guitar and vox), Frosting (guitar and gizmos), Quazar (drums), and B.M. (bass master [?]). Not to mention their fun-filled cover tune choices. Check out Bikini Kill's "Rebel Girl," crackling like a Geiger counter hovering over a churning, glowing morass of deadly isotopes. Or Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music," which plunges into the radioactive whirlpool and comes out mangled, nearly (and hilariously) unidentifiable. Then there's an obscure and troubling "Burn and Rob" by an anti-folk fellow named Paleface -- a suburban terror narrative that collapses periodically into psychotic convulsions not rivaled since the Butthole Surfers were still putting a little oomph into what they were doing. But let's not forget to mention Lutefisk's even better originals: "Miniature in F," a sped-up and slowed-down, creepy-pretty-dreamy song about, yes, dreams; "Product 29," an early-Cheap Trick-styled fuzz-bop; "Southern Fried," a hollow and fragile tremolo warble a la Syd Barrett; "Conquer (Negative Thoughts & Feelings) Forever," which, excepting the ham radio, owes much to the lurching sledgehammer of the Melvins. And, believe it or not, the sonic "sculpting" has actually been toned down a notch since their previous release, Deliver From Porcelain: Theme and Variations.

But, bottom line, there's the title: Burn in Hell Fuckers! Because beneath this competition between gales of noise, arena-ready pop hooks, and Big Rawk self-parody, beneath their devilish polarizing compulsion to distract (either us or themselves), lurks something dark and gnarled, something fucked up and seething. And never mind rocket ships and pseudonyms -- that something always makes for good rock.

-- Curtis Bonney

Sukpatch
Haulin' Grass and Smokin' Ass
(Slabco)

At the beginning of Julian Schnabel's hagiographic Basquiat a narrator reads from the Artforum review that deified Jean-Michel in 1981. "No one wants to be a part a generation that ignores another Van Gogh," the voice says. "When you first see a new picture you are very careful because you may be staring at Van Gogh's ear." Despite the fact that it got missed for almost a year, Sukpatch's brilliant Haulin' Grass and Smokin' Ass is no Van Gogh's ear. It's more like the tinnitus in the canal -- that buzzing sound that won't go away.

Rene Ricard, the man who wrote the critical essay, admits off film and in print that no other great artist suffered an indifference equal to that endured by the French painter. And his point is even more absurd if carried over to a medium like rock 'n' roll, where commerce applies its savage appetite. With a zillion record companies pawing at sticks, and far too many writers trying to pounce on something palatable -- not to mention white-toothed fanzine shrews who consume three times their own weight each day -- it seems like nothing with even a shred of talent could evade a press clip or a three-album deal. How then did anyone miss the Sukpatch boat? Hell, A&R guys start sniffing around bands who've never played a show or released their own 7-inch.

The facts are sparse: A shoddy show review posted a year ago on a Minneapolis Website says there are three principals named Steve, Steve, and Chris. Liner notes say the trio recorded the album April through May 1996.

And that's it. But the record tells a few more tales. The remarkable thing about Sukpatch is that they seem to have found the only possible link between slacker rock and hip hop. Smudged with a pot-scented cloud ("the Buddha haze"), the group actually invents a sound that wouldn't fit in Neil Strauss' recent music genre dissection in the New York Times. One half big, lazy backbeats, one half pretty, soft vocals, the sound is not the sort of schizophrenic collage that belongs to Beck -- the only close comparison -- but a cogent fusion of two identities. There's nary a guitar on Haulin' Grass, but it never sounds like electronic music. Instead of using synths and samplers to create new structures, which usually end up sounding like because-we-can compositions on most new electronic records, Sukpatch works within the time-honored pop form.

If there's any complaint here, it's about breadth -- too many songs sound similar, and two of the voices match each other tone for tone. But give Sukpatch some leeway: If you had only one ear, such trifling sonic concerns would matter only half as much.

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