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Human Skab - Thunder Hips and Saddle Bags

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Artist: Human Skab

Album: Thunder Hips and Saddle Bags

Label: Family Vineyard

Review date: Feb. 18, 2010


Human Skab - "Dead Baby Blues" (Thunder Hips and Saddle Bags)


We tend to distrust legal adults who take themselves too seriously. It’s as though they’ve dragged out one of the few privileges of childhood past their allowance, as though they’ve got nothing else to do but fall into embarrassing habits. So. Should we trust a 10-year-old Washingtonian who takes himself very, very seriously? If it’s Travis “Human Skab” Roberts, at age 10, your trust yields a damned good payoff, even though he was a kid a long time ago. If anyone should have the privilege of behaving like an auteur, it’s this kid, circa these tapes.

Let’s get specific. In the mid 1980s, our 10-year-old protagonist laid down these tracks with whatever was handy, on a budget of free time. We hear a lot of banging pots and pans (an uncanny kinship with well-established African rhythms, but who the fuck knows what that was about), augmented with radio broadcasts, household appliances, lots of room noise, the exclamations of family pets, and the contributions of relatives and neighbors. But Human Skab clearly was not a group effort; it was a dictatorship, the work of one boy-man, one extremely well defined creative force. If we get any laughs out of this, we adults, we owe it to a kid who had the nuts to take himself incredibly seriously.

And, when you’re 10, you may as well follow your gut.

Roberts’ li’l gut followed the news enough to notice that the ‘80s were, at the time, the most geopolitically fascinating era in human history to date, and he put down his take on it. Years from now, it’s going to be uproariously clueless (“The Soviet Union Must Be Destroyed” and a bunch of other distilled cold-war paranoia; interestingly Roberts is now working for the US Army as an Arabic translator, so maybe he had or has clues that your reporter doesn’t know about) (on that note, for some reason, the pseudo-scientific epic “Mining the Radiation” is still spookier than anything on The Wall) or agonizingly, undeniably honest (“Drunk and Staggerin’ Around,” a dis-track toward an unnamed alcoholic relative; “Dead Baby Blues,” an overblown confessional of the sort more of us should really get out of our systems pre-puberty; or “John Wayne is Dead,” a resolute pop-cultural burial).

If you’re a tortured soul that didn’t adequately express itself in the elementary-school years, you can enjoy torturing yourself with this forever. Because nothing you do now will ever be this pure, or this boss.

By Emerson Dameron

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