Sunday, May 18, 2008

gary shandling

I've been thinking about posting some Butthole Surfers stuff for a while but the announcement that the (kind-of *) classic line-up is reforming for some US and European dates seems like the perfect opportunity.

(* By the way, the "kind-of" is because Paul Leary's involvement seems pretty much minimal. Wonder if Ta-Da the Shit Lady will be coming along for the ride...)

Anyhoo, the Buttholes album I've listened to the most is piouhgd. Not - admittedly - the coolest choice but for a long time this was the only album of theirs that we actually owned (who else misses tapes?).

I recently got hold of the Latino Buggerveil reissue which also includes the Widowermaker EP. We had this track on tape off an old Peel show for years and it was great to hear it again.

Butthole Surfers - The Colored F.B.I. Guy

Funnily enough, I was convinced it had a somewhat less contentious song title back then (a series of numbers, something like "1408" - any ideas?). Whatever, it just goes to show that maybe Gibby really did want to be in REM after all (from Double Live).

piouhgd has apparently been disowned by Gibby and Leary but one of the reasons I really like it is the weird way in which it has been recorded. All of the drums sound exactly like the default settings on an Alesis HR-16 drum machine - and I do mean EXACTLY, even down to the stereo positioning and the fact that, unless you change the levels, the hi-hats and cymbals are way too loud.

Did they have a complicated technological set-up that enabled King Coffey to play the sounds live? or most likely, did they programme the whole album onto a drum machine in this configuration? Whatever, it's quite odd for a band who had previously had two drummers to drop live drum sounds.

Similarly, it's an odd decision for a band so closely aligned to the 1988 Melody Maker Arsequake scene that it sounds clearly like the guitars weren't recorded going into amplifiers but were stuck directly into the mixing console - that's why the distortion is so very fuzzy and hissy. The whole album is pretty tinny sounding - whatever, a band called the Butthole Surfers were never going to be Steely Dan, were they?

Yes, there are some crappy stoner humour tracks (and possibly a few too many versions of Lonesome Bulldog) but the opening double whammy of both "Revolution"'s is still one of my favourite Buttholes moments. I've stuck both the tracks together for your improved listening pleasure. Enjoy!

Butthole Surfers - Revolution Part 1 / Revolution Part 2

If you're wondering, Gary Shandling is "just one of those people who haunt me", according to Gibby.

By way of aural demonstration of the recording style, there's an old Johnny Domino song that we recorded with the exact same sounds. It's part of The Best of the Shithouse Masters download available here. Lead guitar and distorted bass straight into the 4-track and more-or-less default settings on the HR-16 that we used on all of our "proper" recordings. It's the Scorpions/Euro-rock pastiche called Reachin' For a Reason (and that's still the most righteous guitar bit I ever played, even if it was a joke).

piouhgd was released in 1991 and - along with albums by The Jackofficers and Leary's History of Dogs - was one of the reasons that Rough Trade filed for bankruptcy in the same year. Quite the legacy!

Buy - pioughd/Widowermaker
Download - pioughd/Widowermaker from iTunes
Visit - Butthole Surfers
Buy - Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life - the chapter about the Buttholes is worth the price alone

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