La Grande Bouffe
Just in time to define the Fall for the young and the restless of 2005, the Deadly Snakes’ new album comes out this September. On the heels of 2003’s highly regarded and, of course, underheard Ode to Joy, the boys have added some new ingredients to the mix. But despite including a strange brew of toy pianos, mellotrons, and strings, it unmistakably remains a Deadly Snakes record. That fact might be somewhat difficult to discern, however, considering not many have heard Love Undone, I’m Not Your Soldier Anymore, or Ode to Joy.
The scourge of Toronto serves up the best album of the year (that nobody was waiting for).
According to principal songwriters Andre Ethier and Max “Age of Danger”, their fourth album is “more vulgar, more opulent, and darker” than anything they’ve done before. On Porcella, the Snakes have created a more intricate and fearless album, without sacrificing the sincerity of their youth. A band since they were teenagers, confrontation has always distinguished their tunes, but now they’ve matched that intensity with maturity. Tracking mud all through their old garage sound, the Deadly Snakes seem like they’re making music for themselves now. Bursting with tales that inspect the lines between decadence and corruption, they must finally know what they’re talking about.
Sitting down with Andre and Max on a September evening, our conversation travels unlikely territory, from the films of ‘70s director Pier Paolo Pasolini to the medieval legitimization of pork butchery (from which they took the title of their new album). But despite such arcane tangents, these guys couldn’t be less pretentious. Whether it’s Max speaking deprecatingly of how he was kicked out of high school, or Andre discussing his home renovations, these guys are no bullshit. Or maybe I’m just cutting them slack because they write such goddamn soulful music.
Since 1996, the Deadly Snakes have been bleeding rock and roll—literally and figuratively, as the last time I saw them live Max’s organ was smeared with blood. With two searing vocalists, a permanent horn section, and a slaughterhouse rhythm section, it’s a wonder how these six down-to-earth guys have laid it so low. It might have something to do with their sloppy—or simple—approach to the peripherals of music making. It has been almost 10 years, and now the Snakes finally have a bona fide website. Max and Andre seem quite amused with this lapse, laughing how their old page was years out of date and pictured an obsolete lineup. Not even mentioning that Porcella has been nearly three years in the making, this album will be the first Deadly Snakes record available domestically in Canada.
That’s the kind of backward alley that epitomizes the Snakes’ crawl to infamy. Ethier claims that there was a time when he’d get frustrated with the band’s lack of popularity, but now he’s content with doing things for intimate consumption. I guess the corporeal, vulgar, truthful stuff doesn’t play well in arenas. But now, with Porcella‘s release and the Canadian music scene firing on all cylinders, it looks like things might change. Judging by the pride Andre and Max exude for their quiet, DIY approach, a drastic change in the life of the Deadly Snakes might not be a good thing. This is raw music that thrives in the everyday. No matter how big this band should be, their records are best suited for those little crude moments that life offers up. As the Deadly Snakes’ disposition to the traditions of blues and gospel suggests, their music rises from the basic.
As far as the bands’ influences are concerned, they have contributed something bigger to their sound than a hook. Shades of Tom Waits, the Oblivians, the Sonics, and Bob Dylan all certainly color the band’s songwriting. More than anything, though, the Deadly Snakes reach toward the same unrestrained expressiveness that these artists were able to achieve in their careers. Like Otis Redding, minus the superstar sensibility, the band capitalizes on the intensity of human experience without spiraling into abstraction. And now I’m completely missing the point and overintellectualizing their pains, because really, it’s a case of “it just feels right”. Simply put, the Deadly Snakes are ugly and timeless and fucking real.