August 07, 2002

McLusky "Mclusky Do Dallas"

Bands, take note: if you're looking for a surefire way to get your CD
listened to immediately after I take it out of my mailbox, put the
words "Recorded by Steve Albini" in your liner notes. (In fact, I'm still bristling over the fact that my dastardly four-eyed nemesis Kyle Sowash managed to turn in a review of Silkworm's Italian Platinum, which Albini recorded, before I did.) I know that Steve would prefer his name not to appear on your album credits, but the guy's production---OOPS, I meant recording---is so consistently awesome that he really deserves to be name-checked. Even if I end up hating your music, I'll suffer through it just to marvel at how Albini manages to make the drums sound so booming. Let's face it: the guy even managed to make Bush sound half-decent. Quit laughing at me, hipsters--if you tune out Gavin Rossdale's sore throat and nonsensical lyrics Razorblade Suitcase actually becomes an above-average album. As usual, Steve's unique miking techniques give Mclusky Do Dallas much of its sonic heft, and it also helps that he resists the temptation to put the vocals or the bass way in the back of the mix. None of this would matter, though, if the music contained on this CD wasn't some of the funniest and most intense rock music I've heard all year.

Picture the Pixies fronted by Jello Biafra, and you'll have an idea of just how incendiary and skewed this Welsh trio's musical outlook is. On opener "Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues," guitarist Falkous delivers lines like "The gun's in my hand and I know it looks bad, but believe me, I'm innocent," in a panicky wail that makes him sound exactly like the lying murderer the lyrics portray. By the third verse, Falkous' vocals are so bilious that his words turn into mush, and you can visualize him having a near-seizure as he approaches the microphone. Mclusky Do Dallas is full of such sordid, amoral tales. "Clique Application Form" details a teenage girl's reckless sexual coming of age, "Alan is a Cowboy Killer" alludes to child molestation and credit card fraud, and "Dethink to Survive" describes a nervous protagonist's failed attempts to distract himself from the awful things going on around him. Not all of the subject matter is such heavy going, though. Mclusky donÕt hesitate to brag about their bandÕs musical prowess (the ingeniously titled "The World Loves us and is Our Bitch") and drug intake ("To Hell With Good Intentions"), or make fun of overly image-conscious bands ("Collagen Rock") and the egghead culture snobs who worship them ("Who You Know"). Mclusky put much more thought and effort into their consistently sarcastic and concise lyrics than the ragged, live-with-no-overdubs musical backdrops would imply; I could fill at least another paragraph with my favorite quotes from this album, but fortunately a lyric sheet is provided in the CD booklet.

"Collagen Rock" and "Day of the Dead Ringers" bear the biggest debt to the Pixies, with Falkous playing both Joey Santiago and Black Francis, backing up his insane shrieking with chromatic single-note guitar lines. Other songs, such as "Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues" and "Dethink to Survive," are speedy Husker Du-style power-chord blasts. The deadpanned vocals, choppy guitar chords, and unusual time signature of "Clique Application Form" come straight out of the Shellac handbook. The band does occasionally deviate from angry post-punk. In the hands of a band such as Blur, "Gareth Brown Says" could be a nice piece of class-mockery pop; at the very least, it's the closest that Falkous comes to singing a tuneful vocal melody. Mclusky even make room for a slow ballad. Staying true to their abrasive nature, they title the ballad "Fuck This Band" and allow Falkous to completely phone in his vocals, as if his voice was too worn from screaming through the rest of the album to stay on key for this one song. This is not a complaint, though; chances are if you spent the other fourteen songs starting a one-man mosh pit in your living room like I did, you'd be just as tired as Falkous is!

In conclusion, when Falkous sings "My band is better than your band" on "To Hell with Good Intentions," he's probably right. Although
name-dropping Albini was the only thing that made a cursory listen a matter of urgency, the overall quality of Mclusky Do Dallas made subsequent listens an absolute necessity. I haven't been able to get this CD out of my boom box all week. For all I care, Bob Rock could have produced itÉokay, maybe not, but you get the point. These guys SHOULD come to Texas and "do Dallas"...and Austin and Houston while they're at it!

---Sean Padilla

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