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Country Teasers / The Rebel - Live Album / Kit

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Artist: Country Teasers / The Rebel

Album: Live Album / Kit

Label: In the Red

Review date: Aug. 25, 2005

“I’M GONNA FUCKING SUCKERPUNCH THIS PIECE OF SHIT BAND! THEY FUCKING DESERVE IT! AND I DON’T GIVE A FUCK ‘CAUSE IT SUCKS! SO GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!!!” Five tracks into the Country Teasers’ Live Album, something happens that, if it isn’t a first in an authorized live recording, is probably one of a handful of instances captured for such posterity: total negative-vibe audience meltdown. A male patron, so enervated by what he had been hearing all night, finally melts down (perhaps with the help of PCP or crystal meth and a gallon of piss beer in cans). “If anyone wants us to play another set, that can be arranged,” Teaser leader B.R. Wallers cheerfully goads, as said patron is led out of the room to cool off.

Such is the way with the Country Teasers, anachronists down to their gums. Few bands polarize an audience the way they can. Rising out of Edinburgh, Scotland in the early ’90s, the Teasers (along with the Yummy Fur and the Male Nurse, all of which shared members at one point or another) pulled a cash ‘n’ carry scam, stopped mithering, paid their rates, etc., in order to see that the North Will Rise Again, as foretold by Mark E. Smith a decade earlier. Their new faces in hell represented a pitch-black British concept of the Appalachia they envisioned between New York and Los Angeles, a celebration of racism, misogyny, rights abuses, corruption, and unequal dispersal of power.

But oh, that was some beautiful country all the same; sitting under a mangrove tree in the August night, shelling pecans and listening to a neighbor pluck a banjo. It was a joke, to be sure, but one told so earnestly that many listeners can’t discern the difference. Who else, in 1994, at the apex of Riot Grrrl spreading to a mass audience, would release a song called “Bitches Fuck Off” – and have it be exactly about that? Or during the O.J. trial, one “Black Change,” about a man who has an operation to become an African-American – reinforcing just about ever stereotype – in order to better please his wife? Or “Golden Apples,” in which the narrator points out all of the personality and genetic flaws of his bandmates? This would be that band, the great societal and cultural equalizer, the reincarnation of Lenny Bruce at a time when that sort of spirit was needed most. And naturally, people hated it, which made them push back all the harder.

In the live setting, the Teasers can do what they please. Members storm off the stage; fans pick up their instruments and play in their absence. They have ground packed rooms down to a nub with plodding, aggravating selections, waiting until a dozen fans remain to unleash a primal blat of rock salvation before packing it up for the night. Mercilessly baiting their crowds night after night, and still they make records, and still people buy them. If you’ve never bothered with them, you might be able to live with yourself just fine. But there is little denying the entertainment value that comes from being a fan, enjoying their recordings and seeing them live. The latter is captured – albeit fractiously and with negligible fidelity – on this self-explanatory disc with appropriate swagger, almost-in-tune musicianship and enough attitude to skin a priest. Often combining multiple versions of a song in a single track, the album lurches and scrapes along, from jacked up originals like the aforementioned “Black Change” and the misanthropic glory of “Please Stop Fucking Each Other” (with a chorus that begins with the verse “Die, die, die, die”) to a well-chosen assortment of covers that pummel with banality (“Blue Monday”), resonate with obviousness (the Brainbombs’ “Obey” and two Butthole Surfers covers from the Cream Corn EP), and fit just right – their cover of Randy Newman’s hated hit “Short People” ranks as a most appropriate summation of the band’s M.O., and on top of it all, breaks down into a gentle, back-porch acoustic interlude in the middle.

If a live Country Teasers disc is like getting beaten up in a bar fight, then Wallers’ solo disc as The Rebel is akin to being trapped in a closet with a leering psychopath. The first legitimate release of this outlet (after an alleged 20+ self-released cassettes), Kit showcases a songwriting prowess and sensitive persona hiding beneath the layers of Teaser filth. It’s hissing and dysfunctional, but human and in a sense more winning. Wallers has a knack for coaxing out memorable patterns of sound from the dingiest and most outmoded equipment that’s lost on most – a rant on the Country Teasers’ website asserts that musicians shouldn’t be getting rid of their 4-track studios unless they’re absolutely certain they’ve exhausted every last option out of the technology. To that end, the dark carnival of organ grinds, canned Casio beats, proud synth bleats and pots-and-pans percussion serves him just fine, stirring a thick soup of paranoia where the scum rises to the top, and the artist hides safely and warmly beneath. Check out the insisting keyboard stabs and dubbish rhythmic claustrophobe lurch of “Piers, Peers, Piers” (“If you disappear over a cliff / That would be very nice”), the loping, childlike lullaby of “Severe Withdrawals” or the industrial clatter and subdued narration of “Gordon Highway’s Wife,” just some of the many highlights on Kit – in a very real sense, a celebration of pop experimentalism and DIY noise that would fit on the same shelf as early Cabaret Voltaire or Severed Heads in its scope, and any Fall album from their first decade in its depth. Despondent, scowling, and alone, the spell of Kit is hard to shake, and gives credence to even the Country Teasers’ most caustic works. For those willing to enter the world of B.R. Wallers, the abuse is sometimes its own reward, but not the only reward – a notion these releases clearly reinforce.

Kit is available on Hook or Crook.

By Doug Mosurock

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