“I don’t want to be the one left holdin’ the bag”.
With that somewhat downcast lyric Supersuckers intro their latest album, Holdin’ the Bag, using this weary title track to reflect not only the band’s particular circumstances — specifically, lead singer and main architect Eddie Spaghetti’s recent diagnosis of stage four throat cancer — but the rebellious reputation they’ve ingrained over the entire course of their career. When they follow up that understated opener with the pissed off assertion that, “This life would be a whole lot better if I didn’t have to share it with you” (sung alongside special guest Hayes Carll) it’s already clear, a scant two songs in, that they’re still wearing their antagonistic attitude on their collective sleeves.
Of course, that’s been the Supersuckers’ calling card for more than two decades and a trajectory that’s found them repeatedly crossing the transom between raging, insurgent, renegade rock ‘n’ roll and outspoken, often outrageous outlaw country. Holdin’ the Bag finds them leaning towards the latter, but rather than tossing out a series of tears in your beer ballads and then wallowing in self-pity, Spaghetti and company come out swinging with their usual spit and sass. “Man on a Mission” stays true to its title with an unyielding determination that clearly marks their mantra. And when they follow that with “I Can’t Cry”, this one featuring a duet with Lydia Loveless, the pace might slacken, but the impenetrable wall of defiance and desperation remains as rock solid as ever.
Then again, it’s not like Spaghetti to lighten up even at this point, his illness notwithstanding. This is the same band that gave their albums such irascible handles as Motherfuckers Be Trippin’ and Devil’s Food. And let’s not forget The Value of Nothin’, the title accorded one of Spaghetti’s four solo outings. Here too, it’s telling that one of the album’s most engaging tracks, “I Can Do What I Can (To Get By)” complements its easy saunter and pedal steel shimmer with a statement of absolute intent. While songs such as “Jibber Jabber” and “Let’s Bounce” spew venom on those for whom they have little use, it’s clear that they’ll let nothing stand in their way as far as pursuing their path, as well worn as it may be. “Life is kind of screwy / You’ve got to ask for the things you need”, Spaghetti insists on “That’s How It Gets Done”, yet another statement of purpose as well as a shared secret to all those who are too tepid to get the things they need.
“You got to shoot off your mouth / You got to stand up and shout/Make sure they know what you’re talking about”.
That’s really all anyone needs to know about the Supersuckers. A no-nonsense, unapologetic bunch, the album’s final entry, “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)”, find them lambasting some better known rebels and raconteurs (Steve Earle, Motörhead’s Lemmy) who have slipped into the complacency of acceptability, amending Hank Williams’ Jr. edgy anthem to get their point across. It’s an apt way to end a set of songs so rife with rebellion, because clearly, Supersuckers have plenty of spit and sass still to share.