Presumably someone somewhere has medical bills to pay, or the IRS on his back? Well, good. Mulebite Deluxe is a set of 12 demos from way yay back in the day (or 1990, if you prefer) plus three new recordings from the modern day Nine Pound Hammer. Unsurprisingly, it’s the old stuff that’ll melt your iPod. A few of these old recordings made it on to early Nine Pound Hammer singles, and a number of the others were subsequently re-recorded for the albums Smokin’ Taters and Hayseed Timebomb, but these demos have a bite and a rawness that just cries out to be heard.
Mulebite Deluxe opens with a near lethal cover of the Dead Boys’ “Ain’t Nothin’ to Do”. Clearly, 1990’s NPH were young, loud and snotty, with a knack for taking a sledgehammer to other people’s songs and beating them up just so. Next up, “Surfabilly” takes the Johnny Kidd riff that’s inspired every rockabilly band since 1959 and threatens to kick sand in its face. It’s a novelty song that hints at the inspirations behind NPH founder member Blaine Cartwright’s other band, Nashville Pussy, but it doesn’t really work in the company of NPH’s covers or the majority of their originals.
While no-one could accuse the band that wrote “Outta The Way, Pigfuckers” of being particularly precious about their song-writing, there are some excellent songs here lurking beneath a sound that is part Motorhead, part Ramones, with just a little AC/DC and country humour thrown in for kicks. Essentially, Nine Pound Hammer are the Dictators from the bible belt, and Mulebite Deluxe has caught them at the top of their powers.
“Cadillac Inn” is Angus Young out of his head on trailer-made crank. It’s the tale of a trucker’s dream of a girl who gets thrown out of a Ted Nugent (Nashville Pussy again) show for starting a fight. “Wrong Side of the Road” is pure punk nihilism: “We’re all takin’ bets on how much longer I can last/ I’m on the wrong side of the road, waitin’ to crash.” Built on a kick-ass punk rock churn, “Don’t Get No Better Than This” details the surprisingly poignant tale of a young life ruined by the alcohol society had encouraged him to crave. Our hero means every literal word when he sings: “I’m so wasted I can’t see shit. And it don’t get no better than this.”
The overs include a pretty disposable “Radar Love” (Golden Earring), a more than decent “Teenage Head” (Flamin’ Groovies) and two marvellous takes on contemporary icons. First NPH grind out a primitive “Folsom Prison Blues” (Johnny Cash) that is only slightly cheapened by its unnecessarily punked up sections, and then they deliver their masterpiece, a Kentucky take on the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” that gives the melodic but flat Sticky Fingers original a raw desperate passion that the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and the New Riders of the Purple Sage have all failed to achieve. Yes, it’s a cover, but in the hands of Nine Pound Hammer, it’s a southern “Chinese Rocks”.
To paraphrase a certain Mr Cash: This nine pound hammer, it’s just heavy enough.