Acid-Damaged Electronic Rants From Butthole Surfers

On upcoming album, trio continue electronic direction that they began on Electriclarryland.

Anyone expecting Austin, Texas' psychedelic cowboys the Butthole Surfers to bounce back from the unexpected success of 1996's commercial breakthrough album, Electriclarryland, with more of the same just doesn't get it.

After 15 years of brain-damaged acid-jazz-punk-country-kitchen-sink mania, the group finally got a radio hit with Electriclarryland's infectious pseudo-rap ditty "Pepper," which may explain why many of the songs on the band's upcoming, 14th album, After the Astronaut (May 19), feature some of the looped and programmed beats that made that song a radio staple. But, this being the Butthole Surfers, much of the album will simply confuse, disorient and surprise you.

Which isn't a bad thing.

Blasting off with what could be the group's theme song, "The Weird Revolution" (RealAudio excerpt) -- a bizarre, Timothy Leary-inspired electronica rant that hints at what the Chemical Brothers would sound like if they moved to Texas and subsisted on acid and Froot Loops -- this 12-track album is a continuation of the turn into a new, more electronic direction that the trio began on Electriclarryland.

The claustrophobic "Jet Fighter" approximates the sounds of war and roaring jet engines with a power-drill guitar and a fat, funky beat, while both "Intelligent Guy" and the sitars-and-guitars song "Venus" mix heavy tripped-out guitar with a Bob Dylanesque (i.e. "Subterranean Homesick Blues") rap. "Guy" is a prime example of singer Gibby Haynes' warped lyrical logic, encapsulated in the couplet "life is long and I am strong/ if I had a gun I'd cock it/ looky there some macaroni is hanging off his cheek/ and I can tell by his smell he's living by the creek."

Because you might expect as much from a band that named their 1987 album Locust Abortion Technician, odd musical bedfellows pop up all over the album. The punk-meets-techno track "Imbuya" mixes heavy-metal riffs with Chemical Brothers-like beats and industrial noise, "Junkie Jenny in Gaytown" features an Asian woman's vocals over Far Eastern trip-hop and the theologically minded "Mexico" features a backward-masked tribal beat over laser sound-effects and the lyrical mantra "God, Zeus, Allah, Buddha/ Bob Dylan on a motor-scooter."

One of the most intriguing tracks by far is "Last Astronaut," which appears to be a tale of planetary destruction as viewed from outer space. Presented as a series of interrupted transmissions from above the Earth, the song unfolds over a mellow piano and subtle beat groove that grows into a cacophony of overlapping beats, flutes, bass and keyboards as the narrator slowly realizes that he's alone in the world. "My God, is there anyone left?" he asks as the music cuts out and off.

Also included on the album are the tracks "They Came In," "I Don't Have a Problem" and "Turkey & Dressing." [Tues., Feb. 10, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]