Unlike the focus-grouped “naughtiness” of bands such as Blink-182 or the Bloodhound Gang, the Butthole Surfers’ obscenely bizarre rock wasn’t calculated to offend; it was just made by genuine freaks who got their kicks making a racket and saying whatever they pleased. After years of lingering in major-label limbo, however, the Buttholes’ new album, Weird Revolution, finds the band’s puke-drenched assaults distilled to only the occasional dry heaves.
The album starts off promisingly: on the title track, lead singer Gibby Haynes mimics Malcolm X in a rant about the injustices that the United States has committed against “the weird masses.” It’s a classic Butthole combination of audacity and willful stupidity, set to electronic beats that make the tune sound like Prodigy sloppily consuming King Missile. Sadly, the rest of the album fails to live up to Gibby’s promises of “complete weirdification.”
The band’s previous album, 1996’s underrated Electriclarryland, was not only satisfyingly strange, but it was also the group’s most melodically rich work, even scoring a minor hit with “Pepper.” The taste of popular success must have thrilled the Buttholes, because Weird Revolution is stuffed with tracks that sound designed to be radio-friendly and “quirky,” rather than indulging their usual musical psychosis. They even stoop to imitating, without discernible irony, the styles of radio whores such as Barenaked Ladies (“Dracula From Houston”), Cake (“Intelligent Guy”) and — ugh — Natalie Imbruglia (“Jet Fighter”). The pedestrian drum programming, uninspired lyrics and dearth of memorable tunes throughout the album are a huge disappointment coming from a band that used to wield its instruments like out-of-control fire hoses and gleefully belch tales of violence, sex and X-rays of flatulence. Sorry, folks, but 20 years after the inception of the band, the Butthole Surfers’ weird revolution has finally been quashed by the Normal Man.
Butthole Surfers perform Saturday, Nov. 10 at St. Andrew’s Hall.
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