Review Summary: Just plain, no frills rock and roll brilliance.
Punk rock - what a strange journey I've had listening to it. I remember trying out early punk such as the Ramones, and thinking: how is this as good as all the stuff it inspired" To me it sounded laughable when compared to modern copies.
The Hot Snakes are pretty much the pinnacle of raw punk rock, in my opinion - evolution at its finest. They took the no frills sound of the earliest punk bands, and added competency to the mix. Then they did some decent recording, and threw in vocals that were not an afterthought. Oh, and most of the lyrics are good too. Economical. Dynamic without using millions of effects. Songwriting. The whole shebang.
Rick Froberg. The man can shred - and emote without sounding like a disgruntled teenager. He can push a hollow, bitter voice out of the mix and it carries more weight than a thousand emo screams.
Then there is this album. I get the feeling the Snakes kinda disowned this one, but I'm not really sure why. It's clearly their best effort (and the others are stellar too). Not many of the tracks from SI made it on their live document, Thunder Down Under.
Listen to opener I Hate The Kids. The creepy harmonica. The poisonous rhythm. The insane build up, and the flat, hard truth of the final lines. I get chills. Who Died is a little gold nugget of aggression. The political release of Paid In Cigarettes. The cutting riffs of LAX. Bye Nancy Boy is a rollercoaster with that nail biting lead up to the bridge, couched in big rolling riffs. Some expansive drama in Suicide Invoice.
Like most great albums, this one ends with a killer triple punch. Why Does It Hurt actually sounds like hitting bottom - melodic to boot. Then there's the majestic, mysterious Unlisted, with that superb ascending chord progression and those odd curtains of guitar in the verse. Froberg sounds like a hammer when he delivers his damning kiss off. Finale is Ben Gurion, filled with lines that make your subconscious burst - you can see the desert bloom again amidst the confusion of tanks, sand, IMF bankers and ticker tape parades. Who knows what it all means, what the position is" It's one of those puzzles that keep you wondering and listening to the song, which is worth the admission price all on its own.
The rhythm section is thunderous and appropriate. The guitar interplay is great. The vocals are harrowing. It's smart without being ponderous. It doesn't overstay its welcome. It's candy that doesn't make you ill. It's senseless without making you stupid. It's just superb.