John Forbes has been doing the guit-blooze boogie thing for two decades, although his prematurely aged soul always tended to be obscured behind the Jesus Lizard-like walls of noise erected by his previous outfits Phantom 309, Dirt and Mount Shasta. The raspy-voiced singer-guitarist strips it all down to the gristle now, however. Joining him in Tijuana Hercules are drummer Chad Smith and percussionist-trumpeter Zak Piper, and together the trio grips its collective middle leg and pisses — lovingly, not irreverently — all over such ancient icons as Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley (“Skinned Alive”), Captain Beefheart (“Pack It In Mama”) with some wild-ass Yardbirds riffing thrown in for good measure, and even Sister Rosetta Thorpe (the hypnotic, slide-fueled “Whales on Every Side”). A potent dish indeed, with no side orders of irony.
The group’s 2003 mini-album, When The Moon Comes Up Wild, reportedly caught the ear of late BBC DJ John Peel, and something tells me he’d appreciate the actual song “When The Moon Comes Up Wild,” included on this, the band’s full-length debut. A bump ’n’ grind number equal parts Tom Waits and the Birthday Party, it’s about the Sisyphean final trudge of an old cuss who’s defiant to the bitter end. “There’s a big hand giving me the squeeze/ I got smoke in my eyes,” growls Forbes, spittle forming at the corner of his mouth, as a sleazy trombone riff beckons him from beyond the grave. You can almost see that ancient spirit inhabiting Forbes’ body standing upright and aiming a big salute heavenward in Peel’s direction.
Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].