Dusted Reviews

Velcro Lewis and his 100 Proof Band / Tijuana Hercules - The Oven’s On / Look Here

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Velcro Lewis and his 100 Proof Band / Tijuana Hercules

Album: The Oven’s On / Look Here

Label: Original Sound Recordings

Review date: Jan. 26, 2007

The cover art of this vinyl-only split LP speaks volumes about the performances within: On Velcro Lewis’ side, a handsome frog enjoys the affection of a fetching, nude redhead; for Tijuana Hercules’ half, the amphibian is depicted as a withered cartoon who drinks, smokes, and fails to seduce a cranky, obese crone. The whole health vs. sickness/luck vs. misfortune/party vs. hangover theme works perfectly when comparing these two related but distinct Chicago-based groups. The ladies adore Lewis’ mangled, chest-thumping blues rock while they thoughtlessly disparage the wizened but wicked Tijuana Hercules, who exists on the filthiest margins of punk-cum-Americana.

In a classy world, the mustachioed, mutton-chopped Lewis would be a household name among meth-addled gas jockeys. The Oven’s On (a reissue of a barely available EP) contains one brand new rump-shaker along with superior revamps of three tunes from the 100 Proof Band’s 2004 album, Ruin Everything. These raucous numbers really snarl thanks to a recently expanded lineup: Dig drummer Hawk Coleman’s positively soulful shouts, Lawrence Peters’ galloping electric washboard, and the infrequent but satisfying twang of Lewis’ homemade didley bow. As usual, guitarist Phil Hunger solos till it hurts; his fuzztone slide slices vigorously through “Tracker,” the saga of a sadistic bounty hunter. Velcro bellows like a randier, deadlier Yosemite Sam, exuding incredible charisma and control. Precious few frontmen possess the balls to get away with lyrics such as “Cut you ear to ear/Right under your chin/Tie you to the back of my truck/Take you for a goddamn spin.”

Tijuana Hercules leader John Forbes is equally formidable. His hoarse, lunatic screams – immortalized on ’80s and ’90s records by Phantom 309, Dirt, and Mount Shasta – have gradually matured into a decrepit but sinister croak that slyly references Captain Beefheart’s weirdness, Bon Scott’s tragicomic bravado, and the genuine abandon of various gutbucket, country, and gospel greats. Accompanied by sporadic horns, Zak Piper’s metallic percussion (often a battered set of beer cans), and guest drummer Bill Roe (an alum of the 100 Proof Band), Forbes’ aggressively brittle but still rootsy guitar sniffs around a bunch of grime-boogie barnburners and defeatist laments. Look Here is Tijuana Hercules’ best-produced endeavor to date, and the hi-fi coating fortifies instead of flattens the combo’s saucy minimalist clatter. Also worth mentioning is an excellent seven-inch from mid-2006, “The Undertaker Cancelled” (released by Black Pisces), in which Forbes and Piper go it alone for a pair of extra-stark, semi-acoustic tales of woe that emphasize their folkier, less bawdy stylings. The delicately keening “Fighting off the Evil Eye” is particularly startling in its loveliness.

Casual listeners might misidentify The Oven’s On/Look Here as an entry in the distasteful garage-rock sweepstakes. But casual listeners tend to be morons. Lewis and Forbes are far stranger and more imaginative than the narrow-minded purists and tattooed pretty-boys who pollute that genre. The 100 Proof Band and Tijuana Hercules truly revitalize and transfigure well-worn musical idioms sans corniness, archness or self-consciousness – an ironclad argument for Jon Spencer to follow CBGB and move his sorry minstrel show to Vegas.

By Jordan N. Mamone

Read More

View all articles by Jordan N. Mamone

Find out more about Original Sound Recordings

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.