It speaks volumes about this band, previously known in the UK as Penthouse
(and their album as Gutter Erotica), that they were judged too
raunchy to be associated with Bob Guccione Sr.'s famous U.S. skin mag of
the same name, and are thus known in North America as 50 Tons of Black
One can only imagine the Penthouse offices reverberating to the
twisted, sordidly beautiful mess of renamed-for-America Demeter
(the name of Dracula's ship, apparently), as the boss' face reddens and
his latest silly toupee flips clear off into the aquarium to be devoured
by his pet piranhas. Yeah, there's no friggin' way Guccione and crew
would want to come within 50 miles of 50 Tons, whose raunchy, soiled
reality is eons removed from their airbrushed fantasies.
The accompanying PR calls these guys "the last great rock 'n' roll band,"
and while that's a pretty hyperbolic claim, 50 Tons do their best to live
up to it here. This is some of the grimiest, gutbucket rocking blues I've
heard since the halcyon days of such '80s Aussies as the Birthday Party,
Crime & the City Solution and These Immortal Souls. Throw in a smidgen
of Jim "Foetus" Thirlwellstyled madness, some Gallon Drunkisms
and even a dash of Marc Almondish sexual kinks, and you've got a
band that remembers what "alternative" really was before the term was
hijacked and applied to Peter Framptonstyled corporate mush. Anyway.
50 Tons are ready to face the future as they put it on the closing
number of this splatterplatter of spleen "Face Down."
Demeter treats rock and roll circa 1999 with all the disrespect
it so heartily deserves. "Voyeur's Blues" (RealAudio
excerpt) sets the tone for the proceedings, a blast of beer-and-barbiturate
R&B: "I want to do that too/ I've seen the way she sucks on you" yowls deranged vocalist Charlie Finke over some
of the skaggiest sounds imaginable. With the opening track, you're put
on notice you'll either get off on this one or just shut it off,
but ignore it you definitely won't.
The next track, "Gus' Neck," ups the tempo to punkish speeds and offers
some of that "Gutter Erotica" promised by the album's original title:
"See the dirt my face leaves on her chest" Finke moans in this classic
tale of "doing it in the dirt." Meanwhile, the slow blues "La Grotte
excerpt) is pure Crime & the City Solution/ These Immortal Souls terror-tory,
with the graveyard junkie licks of Jon Free's guitar seemingly possessed
by the spirit of the great Rowland S. Howard, lead guitarist of both
those immortal bands, and of the Birthday Party as well.
The remainder of the CD features fast and slow variations on these
booze-sodden and sexually perverse themes and if you get past
track three, you'll probably love the rest of it. A personal fave is "A
Deviant Soiree" (RealAudio
excerpt), which finds Finke excoriating a party guest: "You took
down your pants down honey, and you pissed in a corner of my house!"
However, big man that he is, he's able to shrug it off: "Nobody got hurt/
But there's still piss in the house!" he complains. Finally, Free decides
to end the whole diatribe with a sheet of white-noise guitar worthy of
Iggy and the Stooges' "L.A. Blues."
Demeter ain't pretty, and the kids will cry if you play it in the
minivan. It won't even work with your cozy little Friday night champagne-and-coke
soirees with the boys and girls from the software office. Downright
annoying at times, 50 Tons of Black Terror puke all over any notion of
middle-class niceties and bourgeois gentility, and thank God or
maybe Satan for that.