Hey, the writing of this review has a good story to it. Well, actually its not so much good as it is just interesting. Interesting to me at least. Now, the Supersuckers—formed 1990 in Austin, Texas—were originally the odd band out in on Sub Pop. While, their labelmates were donning flannel, bad haircuts, and angry songs, these good ol’ boys kept their cowboy hats on their heads and busted out some of the rowdiest rock n’roll-influenced punk since, well, ever. Anyway, Must’ve Been High is their “country" album: an album in which the band raises adjectives like “honest, pure, and simple" to describe yet. Better yet it’s just “three chord songs, sung from experience, played on an old, beat up acoustic guitar."
Well that’s fine and dandy, but when I went to file this review under the genre named country here on sputnik…there was no country genre!!! Seriously, what a crock of ***! Well, under “Other" it goes. This probably traces back to the long-withstanding generalization that country is generally viewed as the musical opiate of the masses. Sure, we all like to say that we dig Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson to make us sound “enlightened", but when it actually comes down to it, lets face it, most of us loathe the genre with passion. Even this dude from Amazon.com who gave the “official" review of the album:
Let me be the first to take the Supersuckers to task for making their worst record yet: a "bona fide" country album. Problem is this sounds like the 'Suckers learned how to play country via some correspondence course advertised in the back of the Austin Chronicle. Musically, the songs are shamefully rote and remedial, and are only marginally saved by contributions from real country session musicians. The lyrics aren't particularly inspiring either, ranging from typical drugs and drinking fodder ("Non-addictive Marijuana" and "Hungover Together"--a Best Kissers in the World cover) to cliched hacks such as "Dead in the Water." I've got no problem with bands taking a new direction, as long as they can pull it off with some aplomb. The Supersuckers have always been masters of yer basic three-chord punk rock anthems, but they're in way over their heads on Must've Been High, where their limitations become very obvious: They just don't know how to write good, heartfelt country tunes. And while a guest appearance by Willie Nelson might be good for credibility, it really doesn't help this awful record one single lick.
Ouch. Yeah, it’s a mouthful. You actually don’t need to read it all, but the gist is that this guy’s an elitist dick, which I’ll explain by giving this album the justice it deserves. Though I’m sure most of you have never heard of this band or listened to them, or even read this review for any matter, I’m gonna praise the hell out of it anyway simply because I love this record. And I’m bored as hell at the moment.
Anyway, this album by the Supersuckers is a country album, and though while many bands in the punk genre often get blasted by elitists for not being authentic enough (i.e. Dropkick Murphys and Celtic music, Against Me! and American folk), Supersuckers nail everything to a T in making this album, I mean it’s probably more “authentic" than most popular country albums of today. It’s all here: dry production, furiously good studio musicians, and all the effects were created naturally using live chambers, plate reverbs, and analog tape slap delay (suck it Digitech & Protools). And it pays ‘cause it sounds soooooo good. The songs, simple in nature sound so rich with the generous serving of lonesome fiddle, bittersweet harmonica, and joyful lap-steel that have been flushed into the Supersuckers’ three chord punk rubric.
The songs, like I said, are great. The album opens with the title track, Must’ve Been High, that features a desolate harmonica echoing through the mix that gives way to a slow-rollin’ number with some great electric guitar work that screams “outlaw". Hell, even Willie Nelson guests on this song (look at the song title, the man used to smoke a pound a day back in the 1970s, no kidding). That’s how badass this album is. The somber opening switches over the upbeat Dead in the Water, complete with a rollicking guitar riff, very melodic lap-steel, and some sweet harmonica action in the bridge as it meshes with another cool guitar riff.
Barricade, meanwhile, is a pleasant mix of the Supersuckers’ laid-back simplicity and their “I’ll-whoop-your-ass" attitude. Slow-paced and relaxed, kinda like an early-1970s Neil Young track, the lyrics provide an interesting scope as it centers on those giant chain link fences that are used to separate bands from rowdy bar patrons that exist in the scuzzier bars of the ol’ U. S. of A. (which the Supersuckers have played their good share of ):
Yeah, you can toss up some cash or you can throw me a spade,
But if you start throwing trash, I’m gonna kick out your teeth,
From behind the barricade
Pretty cool lyrics huh? The mellow edge continues with the feel-good mood of roamin’ ‘round that utilizes a great guitar riff with some excellent strumming and use of dynamics. Hungover Together meanwhile is a great duet with Kelley Deal of the Breeders. Yeah, it’s good stuff. As for the cool lyrics part, Non-Addictive Marijuana, with its wonderfully catchy two-step country beat and more of that great melodic lap-steel, sounds like it could be played at a square dance at least until the vocals kick in:
I like smokin’ non-addictive marijuana.
I like a big ol’ bump of that soothing speed.
But what I’d really like is a big spoonful of heroin.
Because heroin always gives me what I need.
I like a big shot of whiskey in the morning.
And a big ol’ shot of cocaine in the afternoon.
I’ll shoot whatever you got, but man you best got a lot.
Because I can see right now that yours will be gone pretty soon.
The Captain is another standout track as it’s great jab at indie-style elitism in which the lyrics tell the story of a big-city producer trying to “synth-up" some great country tunes. All this over some blazing harmonica and a frisky Johnny Cash-style guitar riff. The SouthWestern guitar solo in the bridge is killer stuff as well.
Which brings up my next point; that is, the musical skill on this album is phenomenal. Country has had a great legacy of housing some of the best studio musicians in the world and every instrument sounds properly placed and an every melody is perfectly phrased to suit the mood of the song. The band themselves are great musicians as well. Bassist/vocalist Eddie Spaghetti busts out some great walking-bass solos on Blow You Away and Hangin’ Out With Me that sounds like the bass is gonna stomp over and boots its foot up your ass (proverbially speaking of course). Guitarist Renaldo Allegre and Dan “Raised by Wolves" Bolton are some mighty fine guitarists. Sure they specialize on that usual blues-based pentatonic scale, but unlike most rock guitarists who rely on a continually bastardized copy of it, these two let be known that they KNOW early rock n’roll; they KNOW Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Lou Rawls and man, can they ever play like it.
Roadworn and Weary and One Cigarette Away are both great mellow tunes that are perfect for kicking back and enjoying a brew, even if its 9 in the morning. Juicy Pureballs is the standard Supersuckers rock number with a great doo-wop/rockabilly mesh and the closer, the instrumental Hangliders, is a great genial end to the album that emphasizes the whole point that Supersuckers try to make: keeping it simple and letting it override any of one’s own worst feelings or moods.
Actually that’s not all. There’s a secret track titled Supersucker Drive-by Blues and it absolutely rips as they crank the amps up to 11 and deliver a hard-rocking number that actually swings, complete with face-melting guitar solos and lyrics basically about drive-by harrassments (which reveal the nature of this guys in the first place—self-proclaimed jackasses.)
Well, what’s the point in all this? Did this really provide a satisfying antithesis to that write-off from amazon.com? well not really, but here’s a little blurb from Chuck Klosterman, a writer from SPIN magazine, who in his book Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs argued why true unabashed country was way more important than any indie-style conglomeration of it:
The reason Garth Brooks and Shania Twain have sold roughly 120 million more albums than Bob Dylan and Liz Phair is not because record buyers are all a bunch of blithering idiots; it’s because Garth and Shania are simply better at expressing the human condition. They’re less talented, but they understand more people. The paradox, of course, is that I’m writing this essay while staring at my CD rack, which currently holds seventeen Dylan and Phair records and exactly three country records released after 1974. And in a weird way, that makes me happy. I have at least one thing in common with Bob Dylan: Neither one of us understands how the world works. When push comes to shove, we’re both Reba’s bitch.
And this holds true to the Supersuckers and Must’ve Been High: it’s not exactly country in the traditional sense, but it’s got the best grasp of human nature and understands what makes for a good listening. This is, quite simply, a great album. It almost makes you wish you were white trash living out of a trailer listening to John Cougar Mellencamp or hangin’ out in some backwoods dive, crying into your beer.
Must've Been High
Dead in the Water
Roadworn and Weary