Jason Anderson likens his band’s drummer situation – looking for number four presently, after three years – to that of the legendary, imaginary Spinal Tap, and the comparison is pretty apt.
Skinny Weirdo’s “Fist” is exactly the kind of crude rock-and-roll that Tap specialized in before the guys got old and flabby.
It’s “Sex Farm” for the age of Eminem and Kid Rock, the type of thing written and performed by boys who just don’t know any better. That the people behind “Fist” are in their 30s is just a testament to rock’s ability to keep its performers – in the words of legendary, imaginary bassist Derek Smalls – like preserved moose.
But good manners and sensitivity have never exactly been prerequisites for rock bands, and a little stupidity and levity cuts through plenty of hard rock’s ponderous Dungeons & Dragons bullshit. Silly good is self-mocking, such as Monster Magnet; silly bad is self-important and clueless, like Danzig.
Skinny Weirdo is, with a few exceptions, silly good: snotty, riffy rock. The band’s full-length debut, Filthy Mouth, is a hit-and-miss affair, but it shows some real potential in its musicianship, its tunes, and its sensibilities.
Bassist-singer Anderson, singer Jeff Wright, guitarist Tony Vermeer, and a trio of drummers (none of whom have spontaneously combusted, Anderson reports) have assembled an album with plenty of strong hooks and a varied musical palette that makes for generally compelling listening.
Vermeer wields a sharp, refined guitar, adept at muscular chords, hairpin turns, flourishes that add welcome texture, and short, snappy solos. Anderson’s thick, rubbery bass is a strong complement. (The record ends with an aborted instrumental song intro, repeated 21 times, and it’s a nice, if tedious, touch; there’s a hint of a dissonant, engaging acoustic outfit lurking somewhere in these guys’ future.)
Wright’s vocals clearly channel Les Claypool, and they work best when the band follows his lead with a spare, country-tinged Primus sound, as on “Garage Sale” (a rewrite, it seems, of Neil Young’s hilarious anti-commercial rocker “Piece of Crap”), “Fist,” and the standout “Kind Friendly Toast.” “Sent Me an Angel” is country via poppy punk, and here again Wright acquits himself well.
Yet when Skinny Weirdo employs a fuller, more metallic guitar attack on “Fib” and “Yeah Uh Huh Alright,” the voice seems out-of-place, lacking the force or gravity to keep up.
The music is easier to recommend than the words. Sometimes, stupidity and obviousness mask some interesting observations. There’s “My Dog,” whose chorus includes these choice lyrics, reprinted here as fair warning for what you’ll be getting yourself into with Filthy Mouth: “My dog likes to lick his balls / He likes to lick them all day long.” But the remarkable thing is that the song is actually marginally clever, a meditation (as far as that can go in this context) on hygiene.
“Paternity Suit” has a nice lyrical hook, but it ends up hateful: “I’m putting on my paternity suit / And you know she wasn’t even all that cute.” That’s compounded by what seems to be a bald shirking of responsibility: “You my daddy / No I’m not” repeated over and over. One offense is easy to overlook, but “Sent Me an Angel” and “Fist” suggest rooted tendencies.
And here we draw an important distinction between silly and immature. Then again, there’s the whole preserved moose thing.
Filthy Mouth is available at Co-op and Borders in the Quad Cities. Skinny Weirdo next plays February 9 at Boozies.