Home Read Classic Album Review: Butthole Surfers | Weird Revolution

Classic Album Review: Butthole Surfers | Weird Revolution

Truth is, the Texas maniacs' eighth album fails to live up to both halves of its title.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


If you’re a Butthole Surfers fan, you may have read two things about Weird Revolution: 1) It is a new Butthole Surfers album; 2) It sounds like an old Butthole Surfers album. Of course, if you’re a Butthole Surfers fan, it shouldn’t surprise you that: 1) Neither of these statements is completely true; 2) Neither is completely false, either.

Confused? Welcome to the latest strange chapter in the long, twisted saga of the drug-gobbling, genre-busting, mind-blowing Texas avant-punks fronted by Gibby Haynes. Hang in there for a minute; I’ll try to sort this out.

First, Point 1) Weird Revolution is a new Butthole Surfers album. Well, yes, it is the newest Surfers album — the long-awaited followup to ’96’s Electric Larryland. But here’s the thing: We all had to wait so long for this album because it was supposed to come out three years ago. Most of the songs on Revolution were on the “lost” Surfers CD After the Astronaut, a disc their old label shelved in 1998. The band took the tapes, switched labels, revamped most of the songs, dropped some, added others and called it Weird Revolution. So, yeah, it’s new — except for the bits that are four years old. That, in my book, does not bode well.

Next, point 2) It sounds like an old Butthole Surfers album. This ‘We’re getting back to our roots’ shtik is one of the great music-biz lies, er, lines — right up there with, “It’s the best thing we’ve ever done!” and “We can’t wait to play Winnipeg!” Let’s be honest: Nobody’s umpteenth disc sounds like their first one. The Rolling Stones aren’t going to write another Satisfaction. And the Surfers aren’t going to spit out anything as gleefully demented and grandly chaotic as The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave.

Having said that, though, you have to admit the Surfers — singer Haynes, drummer King Coffey and guitarist Paul Leary — seem to be trying. Bits of Weird Revolution are trippier and more experimental than their last couple of discs. Some cuts like Yentel find them toying with bleep-bloopy synthesized soundscapes. Others like Venus flirt with Indian melodies. And yes, a couple even return to the psychotropic fever-dream murk (Shit Like That) and pummelling industrial primitivism (Intelligent Guy) of their early days. Too bad too many other songs sound as if they’re trying to replicate the hip-hop slacker jive of Pepper, their Beckish hit single from Larryland.

That’s especially true of Haynes’ vocals. Used to be you were hard-pressed to make out a single word or find a melody beneath all his shrieking and babbling — along with the multiple effects he used to bend, fold and mutilate his voice. All that has been scaled way back here; you can make out every syllable that comes out of Gibby’s mouth. Sometimes this is good — like when he tosses off a classically Gibby-esque verse like, “There were girls in the front and there were girls in the back / And there were girls petting squirrels and there were squirrels smoking crack,” on The Shame of Life. Sometimes it’s bad — like when he spews dreck like, “Oh no, we gotta go / We’re not gonna live forever” on the Sweet Jane-ish Dracula From Houston. And sometimes — like on the bizarre Jet Fighter, a ballad about the death of a Gulf War pilot — it’s just plain weird. Not good-weird, mind you. More like ‘What the hell were you thinking?’ weird.

Ironically, the main problem with Weird Revolution is that it just isn’t weird enough. The songs are too well-crafted, the grooves too smooth, the production too clean and slick, the playing too perfect, the lyrics too hit-and-miss. Once upon a time, the Surfers’ fertile brand of psychosis gave them a dangerously unpredictable edge that kept you riveted in disbelief; now, even they sound kinda disinterested, like old dogs joylessly trying to recall tricks they used to know.

So don’t believe everything you read. Weird Revolution isn’t really new, isn’t really old-school — and for a band like Butthole Surfers, it sure isn’t revolutionary.