In his fourth column for The Obelisk, the herb-demon known to us mortals as Woody High digs into the dank recesses of rock and roll memory and emerges with a tribute to Killdozer‘s 1989 opus, 12 Point Buck. Please enjoy:
Any discussion of heavy music in the 1980s should include the band Killdozer, but they are often left out. Never a metal band and completely at odds with the hardcore punk scene, the three wild-eyed southern Wisconsin boys churned out some of the heaviest jams of the decade. As Touch & Go recording artists they were often lumped in with so called “noise rock” bands like their labelmates Butthole Surfers, Big Black and Scratch Acid as well as Pussy Galore or even Sonic Youth. Some fancypants New York critic tried to label these bands as “pigfuck,” but that term really makes no sense. Killdozer shared some traits with these bands but they were way heavier and a lot more fun. They released some great albums in the ‘’80s and ‘90s before the farewell “Fuck You, We Quit” tour in 1996. The twin peaks of their catalog are definitely 1988′s all-covers album, For Ladies Only (also the name of a great Steppenwolf record), and 1989′s Twelve Point Buck. For Ladies Only finds the band exploring their roots and delivering outstanding versions of classic rock staples such as “Take the Money and Run,” “Funk #49,” “Hush” and a moving two-part “American Pie.” Their version of “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” was used during the end credits of the movie Old School. Once you hear Killdozer‘s version of a classic, it’s hard to go back to the original.
Albums like Little Baby Buntin’, Snakeboy and the Burl EP were confounding to many people but instant classics for me and my crew of weirdos. What’s not to love about a band that sounds like The Birthday Party, Venom and ZZ Top tapes all playing simultaneously at half-speed? Songs like “Hamburger Martyr” (opening and closing with a drawn out “fffffffffuuuuuuck youuuuuuuuu”) and “King of Sex” were great for clearing out a room. The lightweights would split and there would be more beer for the remaining few. All the potential that those early albums hinted at was fully delivered when Twelve Point Buck was unleashed. Slower, heavier, funnier, scarier. Everything I already loved about Killdozer was new and improved. The trademark bulldozer bass and powerful bellow of Michael Gerald was deeper. Dan Hobson‘s drumming was meatier and more robotic while his brother Bill‘s guitar playing was piercing.
The album begins with an unaccompanied voice screaming “Enter the 49 gates of uncleanliness!” followed by an acoustic guitar strumming in the background for about 30 seconds. Finally the skull-crushing song “New Pants and Shirt” thunders in at full bore, a cautionary tale of laundry woes. The screeching feedback segues into “Space: 1999,” a slowed-down wah-powered mindfuck with lyrical steals from Hendrix, Nugent and Zeppelin. Twelve Point Buck was recorded, according to the liner notes, “during bow hunting season” by Butch Vig at Smart Studios in their hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, and contains some of Vig‘s best work. Brass instruments are used to great effect on the song “Lupus,” which was the single from the album (an incredible version of Janet Jackson‘s “Nasty” was on the flip side). “Lupus” is an ode to author Flannery O’Connor and offers a nice summary of some of her best stories.
Other lyrical themes on the album include the song “Richard,” written from the perspective of a bank worker sent to repossess land from deadbeat farmers. “Man vs. Nature” celebrates the amazing disaster movies made by “the master of realism” Irwin Allen like The Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno. “Free Love In Amsterdam” starts off with a very unsettling introduction and contains the equally unsettling chorus of, “There’s free love in Amsterdam/We can make love without a care.” If it was just about anyone else singing those lines it would sound corny but Michael Gerald‘s pleading is heartwarming.
Witnessing Killdozer on this tour at CBGB was even better than the album. They were loud as hell and it was great to see parts of the audience recoil in horror once they realized they were rocking to Killdozer covering Bad Company. A few months later I saw the Melvins for the first time and looked at them as sort of Killdozer Junior at that time. Amphetamine Reptile recently released a Melvins/Killdozer split single. “Lupus” appears on the Killdozer side and it’s the same as the version from Twelve Point Buck. It would have been great to hear the Melvins tackle a Killdozer song. Maybe they have some sort of heavyweight collaboration planned for the future. In the meantime, put on your hunting vest and crank this muther:
Tags: Spine of Overkill, Woody High