What were you doing six years ago? Sherry Fraser of Two Ton Boa was releasing a five-track self-titled EP and garnering all kinds of highly flattering comparisons for her trouble. Sadly, few of them seem justified by Parasiticide, a debut album that has been six years in the making. And it seems pretty safe to say that Siouxsie, Polly Jean Harvey, and Beth Gibbons are just three of the performers who won’t be feeling at all threatened by Parasiticide.
That’s not to say this is an entirely bad record, just that it’s nowhere near as good as it wants to be, or thinks it is. It’s not hard, for example, to imagine the people involved slapping each other repeatedly on the back for their part in the creation of a seminal, epochal, post-punk post-feminist post-statement. But with the perspective that a little distance can give you—and Texas is a mighty long way from Olympia, Washington, the truth is that Parasiticide is just kinda sorta nothing very special at all.
Fraser’s Two Ton Boa is dark without being goth, and heavy without being metal. There’s a guitar, but it’s seldom heard, because this is a bass-heavy mix underpinned by big beat drums and detailed with keyboards of varying species. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a band with two bass guitars sound less funky. The best Two Ton Boa seems able to achieve is a sort of plodding ponderousness that occasionally lurches over into a more winning rumble. One of the two standout tracks that form the core of Parasiticide, “Gumshoe”, has a particularly good bass roar. While the following number, “Favorite Bloody Patient”, couples a vaguely Who’s next keyboard with a reversion to plod, but saves the day with Fraser’s best vocal performance by far. The lyrics, sadly, read like Courtney Love after a lobotomy:
They say that I can’t be real / That I’m a plastic sex doll queen / So cut me into pieces / And feed me to the masses
I’ve no doubt that Sherry Fraser is an empowered, aware, and above all, too-pretty-to-patronise lil lady with much to say to angry grrls everywhere about sexuality, politics, the politics of sexuality, and the sexuality of politics. But Two Ton Boa is no Bikini Kill and the simple message implicit in lyrics like “I’ll never swallow, I’ll spit you out” is largely lost beneath the frequently convoluted, yet limited poetry and Fraser’s too often overly declamatory vocal style.
Even a great lyricist might be hard pushed to resist the tempation of rhyming “cyanide” with “suicide”, so it was a shoe-in for Fraser whose favourite trick is to match “pearl” with “girl”. But this throwaway aside, the biggest surprise on Parasiticide is that the willful ending of one’s own life doesn’t really get any serious consideration until the closer, “Porcelain Throne”, a cheery little anti-drug anthem that has certainly persuaded me that crack, on balance, is a bad thing.
Suicide? Drugs? Two Ton Boa? Just say no.