Butthole Surfers

Humpty Dumpty LSD (Latino Buggerveil)

My landlord once knew a drug dealer. The dealer had a bunch of LSD stashed in his sock on a hot day. His feet got sweaty, and he absorbed most of the acid. A week after being in the emergency room, the guy was still wild-eyed, queasy, and confused -- chattering like Hitler on fire in an air raid bunker.

Through similar feats of chemical excess, the Butthole Surfers altered the course of America's punk underground by charging headlong into the blackest regions of its psychedelic heart. Guitarist Paul Leary once described the band as making "music to drool into a bucket to." And after ten years of dedicated dementia and a few strobe-induced seizures, the legendary dirtbags from the Lone Star State let Capitol Records give 'em a good, long scrub. The band proceeded to lay two consecutive FM-friendly turds of note: 1995's Electriclarryland and last year's equally disappointing techno-flavored Weird Revolution, on Hollywood.

Now, the once-mighty Surfers are marauding their hope chests for an indie garage sale of odds and ends. (Take that, Wal-Mart.) Spending the better part of a decade in one communal studio after another, Gibson and the gang have amassed a sizable backlog: 278 tapes' worth of rarities, wrack, and refuse. While Humpty Dumpty LSD gets off on the right foot, it suffers enough lapses in form and content to keep it from ever eclipsing the best stuff from the band's heyday: stuff that includes 1987's repulsively cohesive Locust Abortion Technician. Admittedly, when it comes to separating masterworks from the merely trip-worthy, Butthole connoisseurs might as well argue the merits of Windowpane over Liquid Sunshine. Rest assured that the old Surfer sound and spirit is there, in spades.

Standout tracks "One Hundred Million People Dead" and "Dadgad" fight against themselves impressively, barrel-rolling as hard forward as they do backward in relentless displays of audio backmasking and shape-shifting racket; "I Love You Peggy" honors Buddy Holly less than it does Sam Kinison, standing alone as an impressive feat of sustained histrionics; "Day of the Dying Alive" -- a germinal rendering of Hairway to Steven's "Jimi" -- returns to the familiar, festering womb of yesteryear. "Just a Boy" and "I Hate My Job" (from the band's 1982 inception) are enthusiastic but fledgling tributes to Joe Strummer's acne. Overall bleak but somehow funny, Humpty straddles the wall with a reckless precision before discovering gravity. And like the fabled Mr. Dumpty, the band has not only left behind a curious trail of slime but a few unanswered crime-scene questions: Were they pushed? Or did they fall?

 
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