Congratulations to Bloodhound Gang for inspiring revulsion before I even hit play on their new CD, Hefty Fine. Lest you think I’m talking about the cover art that you see above, people who think “fat people are FUNNY!” just make me shake my head. No, it’s the liner notes that made my eyes get wide and my heart skip a beat: “Big ups to Brett Alperowitz for hanging in there like Michael Hutchence”. Holy shit! Maybe it’s just that the presence of this Summer’s Rock Star reality series makes the death of the INXS frontman seem like a far more recent occurrence than it actually is, and I suppose if Eminem can joke about Sonny Bono and Christopher Reeve, Hutchence might as well be a target as well. It’s true, the Gang has never been accused of anything remotely close to sensitivity, but still. Damn.
So sure, I loved “Fire Water Burn” when it broke Bloodhound Gang to the mainstream back in ‘96. I sang along with “The Bad Touch” and laughed at the video. “You’re Pretty When I’m Drunk” was even something of a theme song in one of the college houses I lived in for a couple of years. And you know what? All three of those songs, regardless of how foul or misogynist they happened to be, were kind of funny, sometimes even inventive in their use of irony and absurdist metaphor. Not one song on Hefty Fine can make such a claim. The whole album is a dick ‘n’ fart joke with the occasional jaunt into inexplicable button-pushing shock—it’s not just that “I’m missing you like a hijacked flight on September 11th” (from “No Hard Feelings”... geddit?) is humor forced from a very not funny rock, it’s that besides the paper-flat attempt at humor, the line means absolutely nothing! It’s enough to make one question one’s own intelligence: “Did a Bloodhound Gang joke just go over my head?”
There’s also a beautiful 23 seconds of lead vocalist/lyricist Jimmy Pop shitting, most likely after a night of alcohol and laxatives, if my aural shit-parser is properly attuned.
As if the lyrics (and the poop) weren’t painful enough, the band actually makes us listen to music that, for the most part, amounts to cheap Blink 182 ripoff—that is, if Blink 182 used more synthesizer and were (get this) less funny. Most of the album consists of lots of big guitars on top of simplistic vocal melodies and clichéd three-chord progressions. Sure, they try to add variety here or there with an ‘80s synth knockoff à la “The Bad Touch” or an awkward attempt at seriousness, but these sound like token attempts to prove that there’s more to the band than pilfered pop-punk. “Something Diabolical” actually provides more laughs than any other song on the album as a hilariously awful ode to Satan sung in a hushed, slightly constipated whisper and played with lots of creepy synth noises and an amateur’s feel for atmosphere. It’s the sort of song that Ween could have squeezed genius out of onto a four-track tape, except it’s impossible to tell how seriously we’re supposed to take it. As it is, it’s just ambiguously satanic and completely confusing, not to mention pretty boring for the longest song on the album.
There are a couple of moments of inspiration on the album that keep it from being a total waste. The self-deprecation inherent in the title of the ode to the easy girl that is “I’m the Least You Could Do” is a refreshing change from the egotistical attitude of most of the album. “Pennsylvania” is inspired in its metaphorical comparisons of the title state to some of the most annoying things the world has to offer (“We are Ishtar, we are Tab / We are ‘no right turn on red’ / We are the moustaches The Beatles grew when they dropped acid”). The best song on the album bar none is “Ralph Wiggum”, however, whose verses are completely made up of strewn together quotes from the title character. “Yvan eht nioj” still makes me laugh to this day.
Even so—when the best lines on your album come from The Simpsons’ resident underage lobotomy victim, there’s a problem.
Indeed, most of the jokes are of the “sexual double entendre” variety, something that first single “Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo” (geddit… again?) turns into its entire song. If lines like “Batter dip the cranny ax in the gut locker” make you roll with laughter, well, you’ve probably stopped reading by now anyway. Everyone else should go to the record store and do the world a public service by smashing every copy of Hefty Fine that they can find.
// Notes from the Road
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