Saturday, December 27, 2008

SLOB - FAST FOOD & HEAVY METAL - November Fire Recordings (2008)

Reviewed by Rick Trottier

A lot of interesting and creative fare finds its way onto my desk each week. While most of it takes the form of horror DVDs, we here at Saturday Fright Special’s Fangtastic Features are committed to not getting ourselves stuck in a rut and are eager to branch out on occasion into uncharted territory. It is for that reason that you’ve seen the occasional martial arts film, exploitation flick or even a “comedy” fall under your eyes as you read between the lines. Today, the foray will be one into another avenue of artistic expression altogether. This is our first review of a music CD from a California heavy metal band called SLOB. True to form, one of the reasons I was interested in doing this review is that FAST FOOD & HEAVY METAL is not your typical music disc, which means it will not be your characteristic listening experience, which is all to the good.

FAST FOOD & HEAVY METAL has nine tracks, four of them being songs and five of them are “dialogue” tracks, in essence audio skits. The four songs are all tied tightly to the topical content of the dialogue tracks and the entire CD takes the form of a narrative exploring the day in the life of the band leader of SLOB, Slobert Zombrowski. Exploring a diverse but clearly interconnected series of points like musical tastes and opinions, partying, relationships and contemplating inaction, FAST FOOD & HEAVY METAL weaves from one set of sounds to the next, taking you on a journey that is sophomoric, inane in the best sense of the term, a fairly slick and well-considered parody and is pretty tuneful all through the short but still memorable journey.

Being that FAST FOOD & HEAVY METAL has two sides to its personality, it is best to psycho-analyze this dual-minded specimen one fragment at a time. From a purely musical perspective, there is a lot to like about SLOB. There is an upbeat energy to each song that has none of the somber and depressing nature of too many “metal” bands of today. In fact, while it may not have been intentional, I found the intense but bright guitar chords and especially vigorous bit diverse set of rhythms mixed with the gravelly but good-natured vocals to be reminiscent of some of my favorite mid-80s punk bands like THE DICKIES and MURPHY’S LAW. The similarity with older punk was deepened when you notice the tendency to repeat chorus lines that was so very usual with older thrash bands, but SLOB’s strains are so much more tuneful than and in no way nerve-wracking as was old punk. As a result, you can get carried away by the energy of songs like “40 Hour Weekend” or relax to the slower and somewhat more mellow style of “That Rocker’s Dead”. “High as Fuck” has a wonderful sound all its own and my favorite musical track was “Drive Through Girl” for its mix of the highest quality song-smithing and sharp tongue-in-cheek humor.

The dialogue tracks are a little more inconsistent in their levels of creative quality. Some are openly funny and bring forth a clear chuckle like “Cat Door Dinner” (which is the best of the bunch for its acidity in tone but still very comedic approach) and “Tony Iommi’s Fingers”, while others like “Roach the Drummer” need just a bit more comic consideration. “Rape Puke” was the least enjoyable for its dependence on low-brow bodily humor. “A Day in the Life of Slob” is the intro track and serves a different but very effective purpose. What is impressive about these dialogue tracks is that they walk an exceedingly fine line of mockery of the drunken, slovenly lifestyle while at the same time venerating it to a degree. As a result, if you are looking for some humor that lacerates stoned-out bums, this may serve admirably while others may find comfort in what sounds akin to “like-mindedness”. What I found even more interesting about the dialogue tracks is that after subsequent listenings, the music and repartee blended sinuously into something reminiscent of an old radio drama with an updated feel and even more modernized tone. This was a surprise to me for it is rare that modern artists are able to effectively replicate anything from the past, but whether SLOB meant to or not really doesn’t matter, I enjoyed this CD on a very contemporary level and on a deeply nostalgic one as well.

For an independent production, there is a lot to praise about the audio and visual quality of this disc. I was impressed by the clarity of the audio elements of each song and that is high praise from a man with degenerative hearing loss. I could hear each instrument clearly and they melded into the whole of each musical track smoothly. Clearly, people with some sound mixing skill were at the helm. As to the packaging, I was impressed by the bright colors, fun and sometimes disturbing photos that help to differentiate this band from all the “pretty” and “pre-fabricated” mindlessness out there today that tries to masquerade as music. The front cover is unapologetic, the back cover looks like guys who care about music and couldn’t care less about “image” and the interior is filled with lyrics and information about the band and the project itself. As I read over and through this disc, it felt “real” and not the brainchild of some soulless marketing executive, one of the other reasons I pay my highest tribute by saying that I felt that FAST FOOD & HEAVY METAL has a strange and wonderful kinship with the hardcore bands of yore. No greater paean can be given.

There is so little about our life today that is able to bring us joy anymore. Too often, the news is filled with moronic machinations of megalomaniacs, television and film was crafted to be enjoyed by simpletons, three-year-olds or both and pop culture has such a disgustingly false and insincere veneer that I feel soiled and violated by the vast majority of any dealings I am forced to have with such Philistines. It was refreshing to feel like I had stepped into a small club, heard some fun songs that had an ironic but enjoyable sense of humor, got a kick out of the banter in between and came away feeling like I had escaped for a while from the weight of existence.

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