Vinyl Vlog 279

Vinyl Vlog 279

Friday, 24 November 2017

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the Locust Abortion Technician EP by the Butthole Surfers.

At first glance, it’s hard not to smirk a little at the design, intention and construct of the Locust Abortion Technician EP. It’s a very unmistakably “Surfers” release; the group has chosen to break their decade-long silence with a celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of their Locust Abortion Technician album and, to mark the occasion, they’ve reissued (roughly) thirty percent of the album on a very collectible, colored vinyl (either red or yellow) 10” record. That’s a little weird. That’s a little funny. That’s a very “Butthole Surfers” thing to do, and fans who have waited patiently for more releases from the band will be all over this one.

The keystones about the Butthole Surfers’ character beyond “weird and funny” are “dark, disconcerting, deranged and malicious,” and those are all embodied by the music contained on this EP. The set opens with “22 Going On 23” (which is also the closing cut on the Locust Abortion Technician LP), a thoroughly sinister exercise in sensory deprivation. There, beneath a sample from a radio talk show where a woman says she’s been sexually assaulted, JD Pinkus’ bass lumbers along like a demented dinosaur and the spare drumming done by King Coffey and Theresa Nervosa rings through like an almost sardonic series of punctuation marks. To say that the result is unsettling doesn’t accurately articulate the experience – and when Paul Leary’s classic rock-imbued guitar solo weaves its way into the mix, the pattern is set: for four minutes, the Butthole Surfers revel in a dark, metallic sound which is still capable of sending chills through those listening. That murky and chilling vibe endures through “Graveyard” (the other song which populates the A-side of this EP), but the band makes the menace of it a little more plain. There, singer Gibby Haynes unveils his Gibbytronix sound manipulation system (which would quickly become a staple element of every Buttnole Surfers release from the Locust Abortion Technician LP forward) and uses it to produce an absolutely terrifying sound; after Leary, Pinkus, Nervosa and Coffey cast a deep pall with a dissonant march, Haynes appears sounding like a bloated, attenuated zombie, drooling the words, “You lie in the graveyard/ Well you’re rotting away/ When I talk to you daily/ You’ve got nothing to say.” As creepy as “22 Going On 23” felt, that impression is utterly forgotten within seconds of the first minute of “Graveyard” sinking in with listeners, but that’s not the extent of the song. As they follow it, listeners will find themselves lowered ever-deeper into a flawless, cacophonous abyss from which they’ll be unable to extricate themselves; after the first minute, listeners will find themselves perfectly trapped by “Graveyard” until the song ends and releases them. Even thirty years after its original release – listeners will actually be able to feel that their complexions have been drained of a bit of color after listening to “Graveyard.”

They might not do it quickly but, upon flipping over the EP, listeners will find that while the A-side was dark and more than a little scary, the B-side reflects a genuinely manic and flat-out terrifying disposition. After “Sweat Loaf” opens with some delicate string samples, Gibby Haynes sets up a little vignette which, at least initially, feels like it might angle in a brighter direction with the words, “Daddy?/Yes, son?/What does regret mean?/Well son, the funny thing about regret is that/ It’s better to regret something you have done/ Than to regret something that you haven’t done.”

It sounds good right? Yeah, Haynes fixes that by following it with the words, “And by the way, If you see your mom this weekend?Will you be sure and tell her…?/SATAN!”

In listening, not a soul will be able to claim that what they’re hearing isn’t timeless. It absolutely is – in that, even thirty years later, it’ll fuck your shit up every time. After that intro, Leary, Pinkus, Coffey and Nervosa immediately set to unloading a positively unholy, squalid and broken sounding rendition of the riff which also powered Black Sabbath’s “Sweat Leaf” and melting every face with which it comes into contact, but the warped delivery never really stops; even after the band runs over both the song and those listening to it a few times, they give pause and let listeners catch their collective breath before doing it again – and again, and again, for five and a half minutes.To this day, it’s awfully difficult to come away from “Sweat Leaf” not feeling as though one has been battered mercilessly; worked over body, soul and mind.

Perhaps as a reflection of the assault laid on listeners by “Sweat Loaf,” the out-of-tune and bluesy rhythm which powers the B-side closer, “Pittsburg To Lebanon,” sounds more than a little punch drunk and exhausted. There, Gibby Haynes takes on a mock-bluesy posture (check out the couplets, “When I crawled outta my momma/ Well, I was blind as can be/ I bought my first shotgun/ At the age of three/ Fine whiskey and women, lord!/ By the time that I was five/ Said, ‘Lord, the way I am living/ You know that I am going to wind up alive’”) which is simultaneously captivating and revolting. And there isn’t a whole lot to it beyond that! The band doesn’t bother to offer a foil or relief to the turgid mess they leave before listeners, they simply dump it out and leave – with a weird trail of dispossessed speech and noise before the needle lifts and listeners have to figure out what to do with what they’ve just been exposed to. Some with be disgusted and feel more than a little used up by the ardor of this listening experience, but some won’t feel as though they’ve had enough quite yet. They’ll have been baited, and they’ll realize that might be the reason the cover of this EP features a sticker declaring that there will be a new Butthole Surfers LP released in 2018. With that information in hand, they’ll have the option of going back to uncover/re-cover/discover the Butthole Surfers’ back catalogue of eight studio albums, or they can wait just a little bit longer for a new fix. Either way, the Locust Abortion Technician 10” EP will have whetted their appetite for weirdness very well. [Bill Adams]

Further Reading:
Ground Control Magazine – Butthole Surfers – [Discography Review]


The Locust Abortion Technician EP is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

Comments are closed.