ISSUE #6 - 1990

Butthole Surfers, Bad Livers
April, Fastlane, Asbury Park NJ
    Bad Livers were bad alright. Some hick friends of the Butts on fiddle, stand-up bass, and banjo having a hoe-down. Rob would've wet his pants. What pissed me off was the crowd encouraging them to play an endless set of their hoot. They were a punk rock Hee-Haw from Hell. I wasn't whistlin' dixie.
    Now I was ready to whiz all over the Surfers for their laxidaisical behavior of past performances. I vowed never to see 'em again after that Lyric show, but since I was getting in for free I decided to take the chance. I mean, the past 5 times I've seen 'em were ridiculous. The same set and same shtick over and over again. I refused to be critical due to the greatness of the two gigs a few years back at the Ritz. One was to be Kathleen's last nude review and the other was Theresa's final tour appearance/public sacrifice. Words still won't describe what went on at those gigs. Mayhem seems too calm, anarchy is too political, freak-out is too hippie. It was acid in Sensurround; so real, so scary, so fucked, it was beautiful. Since then, I went with the hopes that "it" would happen again. Some nights were decent, but it soon became old hat rehashed and served cold. That infamous show at the Lyric was a travesty. Gibby was listless and the band was doing the Buttholes by the numbers. No life, no death, no energy, it was just a job. The jokes weren't funny. The show wasn't scary. The film-flames-lights couldn't carry 'em anymore. "Sweat Loaf" became a trademark, a cancer, a ritual that no longer worked. The same with the flaming cymbal; once a call to the lysergic lords of destruction, a shamanistic act where Gibby was the witchdoctor exorcising the media/cultural overlode, the frenzied finale to the spectacle for and by those lost in the belly of the American beast, but now, another empty segment in the show that was just a going-through-the-motions. The "Lonesome Bulldog", possibly the worst thing they've ever done, showed them trapped by the "those wacky Buttholes" themes they created and losing track of themselves by forcing stuff that wasn't funny or entertaining, just dumb. They seemed too concerned with the fact they weren't on a major and were becoming a parody of their old selves. They left Touch & Go, went to Rough Trade, were to be signed instead by Def American, and rumors of a legal battle and internal strife delayed the aptly titled Piouhgd (pee-owed), an album which is toned down compared to previous standards and a little more than disappointing. It also is a confusing insight to their current dilemma and creative stagnation. Steve Albini told me their time was up a few years ago and I didn't believe him. Now I'm not too sure. Which leads me back to this show: It was surprizingly good. New rainbow devices and spectrum lights, a wall of blinding white stobes, and a set without the flab. No "Johnny Smoke", "Lonesome Bulldog", or "Sweat oaf" clogging it up, but a fast, furious, and entertaining show by a lean, mean Butthole machine. They played "Negro Observer" and "Strawberry" (two tunes' I've never heard live, I think) and even the stuff off of Piouhd sounded good (i.e. P.S.Y. Jam", "Blindman" , but no Hurdy-Gurdy Man" thankfully). They had equipment out the ass and light-show like an arena act, but I figure it wouldn't be nearly as unsettling or moving if they played places like Motley Crue do. I left with no complaints and a lot of questions. Should I like 'em or hate 'em? Should they have Big Black'd after Locust Abortion Technician? Should I give a fuck? Do you? One thing's for sure, wear shades if you go see 'em and bring gold bars for the $16 tickets and $22 t-shirts.
   -Greg Chapman

[ home ]     [ pith ]