Friday Full-Length: The Atomic Bitchwax, The Atomic Bitchwax

The Atomic Bitchwax, The Atomic Bitchwax (1999)

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The Atomic Bitchwax‘s The Atomic Bitchwax runs a deceptive 11 songs and 53 minutes. It’s deceptive because they trade back and forth between instrumentals like the opening “Stork Theme” — which also seems to nod at Sabbath with a beginning noise that reminds of “After Forever” — and “Crazed Fandango” and “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hang Me in My Home,” “The Last of the V8 Interceptors” and 10-minute closer “The Formula” and hook-laden tracks like “Birth to the Earth,” “Hey Alright,” “Hope You Die,” “Gettin’ Old” and “Shit Kicker,” as well as their cover of Core‘s “Kiss the Sun,” which would be a staple in live sets for years to come. The two modes of working are interspersed throughout the tracklisting — they might most come together on the bluesier, throttled-back “Gettin’ Old” — and that helps the trio of Kosnik, Mundell and Ackerman keep the listener off-balance as they build a working momentum from front to back across the release. That, coupled with what has become a signature style of winding riffs, a decent amount of speed in their tempos, a couple samples at the start of “Last of the V8 Interceptors” and “Shit Kicker,” and the extra percussion in “Crazed Fandango” earlier, all give the record a sense of variety that, especially on first listen, can be hard to keep up with. The Atomic Bitchwax has for the most part been a band that dares its audience to hold their pace. On the self-titled, that true in terms of style as well as tempo.

Stoner band being stoner in the era of stoner? Yeah, maybe. But to my ears what makes¬†The Atomic Bitchwax a classic album is the fact that the band are so tight and so loose at the same time. the atomic bitchwaxThat¬†The Atomic Bitchwax could conjure the sharp, head-spinning turns of “Stork Theme” and still be fuzzed-out and have an overarching groove in the process. Or that they could be so locked in on “Hope You Die” with¬†Kosnik‘s bass comes forward in the hook and still toss out the lyric “Total. Freedom.,” and have it sound utterly natural. It’s not effortless, but it’s not intended to be. They remain the kind of band who should have someone walking through the crowd collecting tips while they play — “Hey folks, these guys are working hard up there” — but for the frenetic changes in “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hang Me in My Home” and the¬†MC5-worthy gallop of “Shit Kicker,” nothing¬†The Atomic Bitchwax do on their first full-length takes precedent over the song itself. Even the instrumentals each have a personality of their own. Hell, “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Hang Me in My Home” is the centerpiece. Those tracks are crucial the mission of the record overall, right down to the touch of psychedelia worked into the midsection of “The Formula” at the end of the album. They not only highlight the prowess of the band technically, but complement the songwriting of “Birth to the Earth” and “Hey Alright,” etc., making the band a richer listening experience the whole way through, giving flashes of punk immediacy here and there, but ultimately ending up with an unquestionable place in heavy rock and roll.

That a record could be so laid back as it punches you in the face. That’s¬†The Atomic Bitchwax. Still, almost 20 years later.

And quite a 20 years it’s (nearly) been. The¬†Kosnik,¬†Mundell,¬†Ackerman lineup would follow the self-titled with¬†II¬†the next year, also on¬†Tee Pee, and then have the¬†Spit Blood¬†EP on¬†MeteorCity in 2002 before dissolving.¬†Kosnik and¬†Ackerman pressed forward by recruiting¬†Core guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan for the 2005 album,¬†3 (discussed here), and thereby embarking on a new era of the band. The¬†Jack Endino-produced EP¬†Boxriff followed — proud to say I did the liner notes for it — coupled with a live set recorded in Seattle, and after losing¬†Ackerman on drums,¬†Kosnik and¬†Ryan welcomed¬†Bob Pantella, also of¬†Monster Magnet, on drums for 2008’s¬†TAB4¬†(aka¬†T4B), issued first by¬†MeteorCity and then by¬†Tee Pee, which¬†The Atomic Bitchwax rejoined and on whose roster they remain. 2011 brought the all-instrumental, single-song LP,¬†The Local Fuzz¬†(review here), and with that out of their system and a resurgence as a touring act, 2015’s¬†Gravitron¬†(review here) and 2017’s¬†Force Field (review here) marked not only a period of productivity, but a maturity of approach that somewhat ironically dipped back to the modus of their earliest work but made it tighter and even sharper in the delivery.

Speaking of irony, for a band that was so long considered a¬†side-project because of¬†Mundell‘s involvement in both groups — he of course relocated to the West Coast earlier this decade and embarked on¬†The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic — the last several years have found¬†Kosnik playing bass in¬†Monster Magnet¬†in the rhythm section with¬†Pantella. I don’t think anyone’s calling them a side-project at this point though. Classic, maybe. I certainly think so.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

We put the Little Dog Dio down on Monday. The pain from her bone cancer was becoming less and less manageable by the hour. We ended up giving her a percocet Monday morning and she ate nine string cheeses and some chicken after that and she got up to greet The Patient Mrs. when she and the baby got back from running an errand, but she was still clearly in agony, despite also being stoned out of her gourd.

I miss her. So much. I keep looking for her. Thinking about her in her places. The spots that were hers in the house. I’ve been telling Dio stories all week on Facebook. I have so many but I’ll probably do one more tomorrow and leave it there. It’s been hard.

We had a vet come and do it at the house. They do that now, apparently. I’ve had dogs my whole life and been a participant in two euthanasias prior to this one. Dio was different. Special. She woofed at the door when the vet came. She was healthy but for the cancer eating away at her. I figure we got robbed of at least two good years with her. I’d happily shave that time off my own lifespan if I could make a trade to get her back.

I brought her bed from the upstairs bedroom down to the kitchen and laid a sheet on it for her to be on while the vet administered the drugs. High dose of opiates, something else to knock her out, then the pink shit. Always the pink shit. The Patient Mrs. and I sat with her and cried — I’d spent the last four hours just petting her and telling her I loved her — and we were with her through the end. The vet was about to deliver the pink shit and I asked her to let me do it. She did. I did it. Me.

But you want to know the truth? The confession? I wouldn’t have done it on my own. The Patient Mrs. and I had talked it out and we both knew it was time, but even an hour before the vet came I was saying maybe we should call it off. And if she’d said okay, I would have. I wouldn’t have gone through with it. I’d have been selfish and kept my poor sweet Dio in pain just to have a couple more days with her. A little more time. I’m a terrible person.

I cried and cried and cried. When it was finally done, I wrapped her in the sheet and carried her out to the vet’s van, where a bag was waiting. She’ll be cremated and we’ll get her ashes back in the mail next week. I want to be buried with them when I go.

The rest of the last five days has been a blur of grief and baby feedings. I said goodnight to her pillow before I went to bed last night.

I have notes ready for next week front to back but I’m going to keep it to myself. It’s a cool week, busy, but I just don’t have it in me to run through it. Also, by way of a heads up, the next Quarterly Review begins Oct. 8. Nobody cares. I know.

If you get the chance though, I have a show debuting on this Sunday at 5PM Eastern. Prime time! It’s called “The Obelisk Show” and I host it and talk awkwardly about records and this and that. The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan both make a cameo. It turned out to be a lot of fun to put together and I promise it’s not sad. It’s free to sign up and there’s no subscription or anything, so if you get to check it out, I’d appreciate it. Here’s a poster they made.

jj gimme radio

That says it all, I guess. I’m just happy they spelled my name right. We’ll see if they let me do a second episode.

While you wait with bated breath for that to start, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Hold your loved ones close, have fun, and please don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio


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8 Responses to “Friday Full-Length: The Atomic Bitchwax, The Atomic Bitchwax

  1. wombat60 says:

    So sorry to hear about little Dio, JJ, these losses never go away, we’ll be thinking about you this weekend.
    Also looking forward to hearing your new radio show

  2. Michael Henaghan says:

    Sorry to hear about your dog, I hope you’ll be ok… I sometimes look after my sister -in-laws 3 year old Scottish Westie. He used to be really scared of me, but over the last few months we’ve become best friends. Anytime he stays with us, in the morning he opens our room door with his head an jumps on my back to get me up so that we can play :) I’m hoping to tune into this radio show. Any idea what the UK time will be? I think it might be 10pm???

  3. Rick says:

    Damn, JJ.
    Got me crying too.

    Shit ain’t fair.

    I’m sorry.

    2pm CA time. I’ll have it on. Good luck with it. Have FUN with it. I guess I know who the first show will be dedicated too……


  4. Electric Woodsman says:

    This post hits close to home. My wife and I got a puppy when we got married 14 years ago. He has been our kid. He has been real sick. Thyroid cancer. We started treating him but that made it worse. We’ve decided to just watch him for the next few days (weeks?) and see when it’s too much. And I was digging around in the basement and found that Atomic Bitchwax CD Thursday. I sat and listened to it petting my dog. All we can do is give them the best life possible and make them comfortable at the end.

  5. Dave Bidwell says:

    JJ, sorry about Dio….had pets my whole life…..they are only around
    for a fraction of our life…..I understand your pain……hang in there,
    you did all you could.

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