I just returned from seven months in South America and find myself craving “American” music. For some, that means luminaries like Bruce Springsteen, Buddy Guy, or Johnny Cash. But for me, at this moment, it means Slobberbone.
Don’t get me wrong – I came across some excellent bands in South America (check out my posts about Chilean and Argentinean bands and the Rock En Concé Festival). But right now I want red meat: I don’t want subtlety, I don’t want the obtuse, I don’t want jangling guitars that get lost in the background. I want Slobberbone.
Slobberbone hails from Denton, Texas and their hard-driving sound softened with a whiff of country twang is just what I need to re-acclimate to the United States. Check out “Your Excuse” off their second record, Barrel Chested, to hear what I’m talking about.
Slobberbone recorded four albums between 1996 and 2002. So why am I writing about the band now? Fair question given this blog is supposed to focus on new music. The answer is because Slobberbone issued a greatest hits record just a few months ago called Bees and Seas: The Best of Slobberbone. Granted, the concept of a greatest hits album by a band that recorded only 45 songs over its short career is a little hard to swallow. That they include 18 of those 45 tracks – 40% of their oeuvre – on said compilation calls for the Heimlich. I mean come on; Springsteen’s Greatest Hits has 18 songs.
But I’m not here to talk about marketing. The music is the thing. And the music is notable. Special mention goes to “I Can Tell Your Love is Waning” off the band’s first record, Crow Pot Pie. Lost one night in a communal Mad Hatter reverie brought on by Neil Young’s “Down By The River,” my wife suggested I write a blog post listing the best songs in rock history about a guy killing his girlfriend. There are a surprising number of contenders. I don’t have the backbone to write that post, although somebody should – there are so many classics (Guns ‘N Roses’ “I Used To Love Her, But I had To Kill Her,” Hendrix’s “Hey Joe,” the aforementioned “Down By The River”).
Slobberbone’s “I Can Tell Your Love is Waning” would have to make that list. The song’s three verses repeat a grim scene set in a trailer that devolves to a final scene involving a bathtub, a kitchen knife, and “blood all in your hair.” How could lead singer, Brent Best, tell his girlfriend’s love was waning? “From the looks and smell of it/Like getting caught behind a cattle truck and all you smell is shit.” No subtlety there. But in case the message is unclear, Crow Pot Pie finishes with a track called “Dunk You in the River” which is thematically similar to “Down by the River” but with a title stripped of the possibility of any alternative reading.
Notwithstanding its sordid lyrics, “I Can Tell Your Love is Waning” is well worth experiencing. Here’s a live clip of the band performing the tune in 2014 in the Netherlands where Slobberbone, for some reason, is huge.
Having just asserted the absurdity of Slobberbone putting 18 songs on their greatest hits record, I'm now in the uncomfortable position of questioning why “Get Gone Again” didn't make the cut. (Click here to listen to it.) That track whet my appetite for Slobberbone – I admit I’m a sucker for the slow-burners. Couldn’t they have packed just one more track onto an already bloated album?
But perhaps Slobberbone can be forgiven its rather dull editing pencil when no less a rock authority than the author Stephen King has dubbed one of the band’s songs, “Gimme Back My Dog,” the greatest rock ‘n’ roll song of all time. The song, predictably, involves a failed relationship with the guy demanding the return of his dog who “was mine before you found me, before you’d hound me and bound me, ground me then pound me, like a stray with no way home.” Although he may get the dog back, his dignity seems irretrievable. But at least he didn’t threaten to kill her.
Rachel Maddow is also reportedly a fan of Slobberbone, citing the track “Placemat Blues” as a favorite. [Interestingly, she is also a fan of Lucero, a band well known to Fine Tuning Fans from a post last year. I always knew my musical soulmate was out there; I had no idea it was Rachel Maddow.] In case you were wondering, both “Gimme Back My Dog” and “Placemat Blues” made it on to Bees and Seas.
According to their web site, Slobberbone re-grouped for a few shows this past summer. I’m hoping they hit the road in earnest sometime soon, or better yet, record some new tracks for immediate inclusion on The Best of Slobberbone, Volume 2.