Sunday, August 29, 2010

steel pole bath tub

Hey everybody, this is Schultzzz from Tokyo Damage Report. I'm on here now. Thanks Cobras.

Everybody’s got their one band that they think, “These guys should have been huge! They had it all, but they were SHOT DOWN AND IGNORED BY THE SAME CONFORMIST SHEEP THAT EMBRACED THAT SAME STYLE WHEN IT BECAME TRENDY 10 YEARS LATER, WAAAHHHHHH.”

And you know which band is MY “Waaaahhh” band?

Just from the name you might think they were some kind of joke psychedelic band like butthole surfers or caroliner rainbow or tragic mulatto.

And that would have been cool: all those bands were the shit. Sometimes literally.

But ? though it would have been easy for Steel Pole Bath Tub to join that scene ? they got down in their own way. They took the trouble to write actual songs, and although their shit was very chaotic and layered, it seemed (to me anyway) that every little bit was thought out and controlled with the control-freak finesse of Zappa. They were also one of those bands like CRIME or CELTIC FROST that did all their own graphics, so it wasn’t just music: when you bought their stuff it was like you were entering a whole other world.

Very few bands hit on all levels: blazing technical parts, super passionate, sweat-soaked live performances, creativity, hella dynamics between slow/fast/loud/soft , AND catchiness. I can count these bands: opeth, (wait, no, their live show is not passionate) dillinger (wait, they are the opposite of catchy), nomeansno (wait, they’re Canadian). . . hmmm, I guess that just leaves Bad Brains and Steelpole!

What Steelpole had that Bad Brains didn’t, though, was madd avant-garde technology. It wasn’t enough that the lyrics had elaborate storylines (seems like they went through a phase where they’d try to write a whole noir detective novel per song!), not only did they have layers of feedback (something that is impossible with all today’s protools/pod6/myspace/plug-my-guitar-into-the-computer bands) and crazy fast parts, BUT on top of all THAT, they would plop several layers of noise and sound-effect loops. They had enough gear to start their own noise band. Tape loops from the most obscure sources and thrift-shops in 9 states, home-made noise-boxes, and samples.

The guitarist was amazing: he could blaze out some crazy technical riffs, but he’d get so pissed-off, he’d stop in mid riff and just feed back or play a little improv bit because HE WAS EMOTIONALLY CARRIED AWAY. The drummer looked exactly like the lisping non-sequitur-saying guy from all the Airplane movies, and brought madd jazzy skills to the “tribal drums” thing that was popular at the time. The bassist was totally intense and cute. Dudes would come out looking normal: jeans and t-shirts. Then the feedback would come. Then the odd scraping nosie loops, the whole din of the naked city in your face. Then the voodoo drums would start. . . then guitar bits would come in. Quietly at first. Dudes would take turns singing about lost loves and back-stabbed detectives, runaway secret agents, bleeding hearts and Manson conspiracies. The tension would build, the drums would get louder, sweat would pour. Dudes would stomp on pedals and suddenly pre-recorded voices would echo out the speakers. Then : BOOM- the chorus would explode in a frenzy of catharsis, releasing all the built-up tension. And they did this shit on basically every song.

These guys had crazy dynamics way before pixies, noise loops way before neurosis, were emotional before whoever the fuck does that now, and were gay way before lady gaga. And then they broke up.

Aah, fuck it. What are YOUR top WAAAAHH!!! bands?

And oh yeah:



Aylmer said...

Time to Die!

Crankenstien said...

what no pictures? I like that borstal 7 inch but everything else is alittle too whiny for me

Nekromantis said...

Slauter Xstroyes, Xerxes, Bellzlleb and Hell (Uk) comes to my mind..

Anonymous said...

Righteous bro, your blog is the shit. How many Asian honies have you pulled while in Japan?

The Thing That Should Not Be said...

I saw Steelpole Bathtub with the Melvins and DUH! waaaaaay back when and they were totally BOSS. You're so right about them being unappreciated in their time. Shame.

The Thing That Should Not Be said...

I think most of my damn record collection is WAAAAAAAH!! bands, y'know? Why weren't Voivod huge? Why weren't The Nymphs huge? Why weren't Barkmarket huge? Why weren't Grotus huge? fuck, why weren't the cardiacs huge?!? Seems to me that people don't like individualists so much. They like it watered down and nth gen. Fuck 'em. They didn't deserve Steelpole Bathtub.

Aylmer said...

Hey Thing, I saw Grotus in London in the early 90's with Neurosis. They were real good.

Aylmer said...

Always wanted to see SPBT live. No dice.

The Thing That Should Not Be said...

Aylmer - I saw 'em on that same tour, but in Preston. Grotus and Neurosis were both fantastic, although Grotus was slightly marred by Lars accidentally braining me with an oversized can of lager. I had my head in the bass bin at the end of Neurosis' set, when they played Cleanse for so long they got the plug pulled on 'em but carried on regardless. I think management were too scared to stop 'em.

Aylmer said...

Thing: so, same tour with the two TV's on stage and they looped the gnarly footage of Bud Dwyer emptying his brainpan? I was tripping hard and that shit freaked me out.

The Thing That Should Not Be said...

Yeppers - two TVs', and Lars did a duet with a cow hand-puppet while they played really nasty abattoir footage on the TVs.

Anonymous said...

deft description. yea, think i can recognize, and add case to point...

saw 'em back in 90. unsuspectingly i was led into a sorta psychedelic trance by the sheer power of their music. the walls crumpled into air while the floor tilted slowly up & down. the candycolored strobelight felt thick as a slurpee and time & consciousness almost were upended. i and possibly a handful of others in attendance that night were just literally jettisoned into a cosmic vortex for the duration, before it finally let up. i never had *that* sort of experience at a gig before (or since!), and was so confounded when they left i insisted on going with them in their tourmobile then and there, something they politely but firmly turned down. thinking i had to do SOMETHING for the band i went in to the men's room, wrested free a large paper towel dispenser thinking it useful on the road for ...something? (they accepted it as a token, i think, a bit mystified!)

i could have had a beer or two but hey man, what a far out music trip that was, simply unshakeably heady.

(the cd i bought from them left me cold tho, way more "normal" songs).