Butthole Surfers – “Locust Abortion Technician” (1987 / 2013)

Tonight I exorcised the last of my great musical demons.

I sat down and listened to Locust Abortion Technician from start to finish.

Well son,
A funny thing about regret is…
That it’s better to regret something you have done
Than to regret something you haven’t.

And by the way,
If you see your mom this weekend,
Be sure and tell her….
SATAN!
— “Sweet Loaf”

buttholesurferslocustabortion

This is one of the three albums I’ve come across in my life that actually scared me musically.  Not because of it’s cover art, though the clowns are creepy as hell.  Nor the name of the album or the band.  Or that bizarro picture on the jacket reverse.  Nope.  The music on Locust Abortion Technician was the bizarrest thing I’d ever heard circa 1988-89.

We spent a lot of time at my buddy John’s house during our senior year in high school, and his brother Dave had a great record collection.  And one of his go-tos when we were all deep into whatever we were doing that night was the Butthole Surfers’ Locust Abortion Technician… particularly Side B.  The side with “U.S.S.A.” and “Kuntz.”  The side that left me unsettled and would cause me to spring awake in the middle of the night on the floor in a sleeping bag drenched in sweat.

And you know what?  It doesn’t sound that weird today.

I mean, there’s stuff from before Locust Abortion Technician (1987) that sounds way the hell weirder.  Like Psychic TV’s Those Who Do Not (1984) or The Pressure Company’s (aka Cabaret Voltaire) Live In Sheffield 19 Jan 82 or probably anything by Throbbing Gristle or Death in June.  I mean it’s still weird, especially Side B.  But some songs like “Human Cannonball” are pretty much straight punk rock.  “Kuntz” is still trippy as hell, but after about three listenings it’s hardly anything unsettling.  Time is the great equalizer.

“God’s Favorite Dog” Compilation (1986)

I know a lot of people don’t like comps, and I get why – a good album is an integrated experience, and when you strip songs out of their intended environment they don’t have the same meaning or sense of being a part of a larger work (<– pretentiousness alert!!!).  That being said, I like me a good comp since it’s a great way to get exposure to a lot of different bands in one sitting.  Not all comps are created equal, to be sure, but when done well they’re solid.

Touch & Go Records’ God’s Favorite Dog is a slightly different take for a comp – instead of featuring songs by all different bands, or blocks of songs by the same band, you get six bands each contributing one song to each side.  I know of most of the bands, though I have limited experience with them.  The roster is comprised of Butthole Surfers, Killdozer, Scratch Acid, Hose, Happy Flowers, and Big Black.  To make the recording even a little more interesting, it includes three covers – Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” as performed by Scratch Acid, along with Neil Young’s “Down by the River” and Led Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times” recorded by Hose.

I initially was tentative about this album.  The reason is that the Butthole Surfers were one of the first bands that truly made me uncomfortable with their music back in the day (hell, maybe even still today).  Skinny Puppy was undoubtedly the first, but I can remember in high school staying over at my friend John’s house and listening to his older brother crank Locust Abortion Technicians and being more than a little freaked out by it.  This was not Def Leppard’s Hysteria… hell, it wasn’t even Master of Puppets – it was something totally beyond metal and industrial and noise.  Something bizarre.  Something I couldn’t figure out if I liked or thought should be sealed in a lead-lined container and buried deep in a mountain until it cooled off.  Later I discovered Ghostigital, and I really think my experience with the Butthole Surfers allowed me to appreciate how awesome they are (though it still took a while), so I guess I owe them for that.

Side A (referred to as “God’s Side” on the album) can best be described as “sludge”, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.  I actually had to double check the record while “Sweet Home Alabama” was playing to make sure that I wasn’t supposed to be playing this on 45 rpm… but I wasn’t.  It was just slllooooooowwwww.  It’s music filtered through molasses, but without the sweetness.  I think someone may have actually been killed in the studio on the Big Black track.  This is a recording where the snap, crackle, and pop of the vinyl actually seems to actually be an integral part of the music.

The order of bands is reversed on the flip side (a.k.a. “Dog’s Side”), with Big Black opening and Butthole Surfers wrapping things up.  It also has the best song title on the comp, “All I Got Were Clothes for Christmas” (“No Toys!” is the best lyric) by Happy Flowers.  The Zep cover is solid, and may be my favorite track on the album (I know… I know…. it’s a cover!).  The lo-fi sound and feedback fits perfectly with the song.  Dog’s Side is my favorite side of the album overall – I just think the songs are better in general, and “How Many More Times” is solid.

If you like your music muddy and a bit weird, God’s Favorite Dog is for you.  I dig it, but it probably won’t make the regular rotation.