Rhythm & Views
SEPTEMBER 14, 1998:
EMERGING FROM THE trailer parks of Kentucky, the Hookers steal a swig or two from the liquor jugs of Zeke, Nashville Pussy, REO Speedealer and the Dwarves. They swill this lethal concoction in the nearest still, add rocket fuel and then vomit skyward into their own nasty brand of barnstorming Southern-fried metal punk. Imagine a crank-addicted AC/DC gone down a path to hillbilly death-metal hell--sort of what Slayer would sound like if they grew up watching Hee-Haw and listening to Black Oak Arkansas.
The Hookers--unlike the mighty Nashville Pussy, who worship at the altars of Ted Nugent, Kiss and Motorhead--pray to the same warped demons that inspired Black Sabbath, Venom and Mercyful Fate. Former 'Pussy/Nine Pound Hammer stickman Adam Neal steps out from behind his drum kit to uncork his best Blag Jesus-meets-King Diamond vocal impersonation, shredding most of the redneck speed-punk competition in the process. When guitarist Noel Reucroft throttles such wicked Angus Young-saturated riffs on "Hometown Slut" and "Back Alley Trash," you'd swear you were reliving an arena-sized "Let There Be Rock" wet dream circa 1977. On "We Don't Fuck Around," the Hookers mean every word: a meth-fueled, runaway freight train wrecking everything that dares cross its path. Hey, Maw! Hide them young 'uns. The Hookers are comin'!
A TRIBAL/INDUSTRIAL collective, Salt Lake City-based Ether's overloaded performances (films, freakish lighting gimmicks and lit fires) have earned comparisons to early Butthole Surfers--and more recently, Crash Worship. The group's second CD is eclectic, sending mixed (but not unpleasant) signals as to its intentions. While the mid-disc explosion of furious drumming and percussion clatter may send you darting across the room to prevent the abrupt demise of kitchen china and crystal, prior to that you'll have been awash in a dizzying array of psychedelic motifs (elongated guitar chimes and billowy clouds of droning bass, plus massed drum mantras and gamelan bells). And the set's closing moments--minimalist guitar, whispered vocals and distant flute trills--additionally suggest the presence of ambient/neoclassical students in the lineup.
A FUNNY THING happens on country music star Vince Gill's latest release: country music. See, Gill says he's found himself "just missing real, true country music" lately. Thus, we have a situation in which the problem is trying to reinvent itself as the solution. And while the results are hardly memorable, they're not as vapid as one might expect.
Several years ago, Gill's silken tenor joined the chorus of Stetson-cloaked jackhammers pounding the foundations of traditional country music--one more saccharine ambassador for the "crossover" effect that now has Nashville more aligned with Celine Dion than George Jones. Today, going back to your roots in Nashville doesn't mean taking a cue from Patsy Cline or Merle Haggard, but rather simply trying not to sound as goofy as Joe Diffie.
And so now Gill is doing penance with an assortment of fiddles, steel guitars and traditional arrangements that will no doubt earn him accolades for honoring "true country." Gill's undeniable and ample songwriting talents are particularly evident on the loping ballad "Live To Tell It All," and the catchy romp "I Never Really Knew You." And his flawless voice, though a little too crystalline for this reviewer's ears, continues to ooze the familiar appeal that's earned him legions of fans.
Ultimately, however, The Key can't evade the arthritis of unintended irony, a condition Gill only exacerbates by singing lines such as, "If you're gonna play the jukebox/Would you kindly keep it country...."
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