Ass Cobra -and- Apocalypse Dudes (Epitaph Records)
By: Vinnie Apicella
There are two ways to look at this band. The first - if you ain't heard 'em you don't know what you're missing. The second - if you have, you're lucky to escape with your dignity. Considering my sanity went belly up many a moon before (uh oh, and here's where the "ass" cracks start coming in?) I'm not the slightest bit affected and piss off if you think otherwise, Hobbit Motherfucker! It's hard not to equate Turbonegro with something that's not dirty, sleazy, goofy, and altogether ridiculous? and that's just considering its pronunciation. One of Norway's finest imports have slipped under the mainstream radar in all but the coolest circles of the Rock n' Roll globe - and we ain't just talking Northern Europe, though if you'd seen the numbers they played for at the massive Scandinavian festivals late last year, you'd still be rubbing your eyes - yet by so doing, they've achieved that most golden of star status with the underground populous. Turbonegro began some 13 years earlier by reproducing a retro Rock sound of double-stitched denim toughness sewn with a sadistic style of self-expression, love, and destruction. They quickly tested the limits of inexcusability, effectively smashing the parallels of safety and sanity past any conceivable, combustible limits, while paying homage to the threadbare Punk Rocker scene setters of a Pop idol era.
We catch 'em here on the trail of their welcome revival from the bowels of certain death in 1998, the details of which remain unclear. Their renown, however, in the wake of such tabloid rich readiness, arrives unscathed. And with an erection-like eagerness unmatched in its evil ranks, Turbonegro (often referred in the 3rd person within their own songs!) are obliged again to whip out their collective cocks and spray over the Hollywood tease scene with their expert command of chord pairing, unfiltered fill effects, and FTW foolishness. "Ass Cobra" and "Apocalypse Dudes" were magnificent turning points in the careers of these self-proclaimed "Scandinavian Death Punks" who single-handedly instilled a valueless generation with even fewer reasons to listen, learn, and act normal; But alas, the story unfolds further to reveal a peerless talent of powerful players and punch-line lyricists for two such indispensable classics.
"Ass Cobra" featuring a front-cover spoof of The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds," took the band's filth-tracks to another level, opting for sudden bursts of riff madness offsetting melody upon further unleashing such bizarre twists and turns to dig out the skeletal remains of society's sex-rated closet. Overcrowded power-chording reigns supreme on these minute and a half blasts blurted behind a filthy mind and mouth to match - "A Dazzling Display Of Talent," "The Midnight NAMBLA," "Denim Demon," and "I Got Erection" are just a few of the many done up to death dirty deeds for the dirty faced, making their long awaited reappearance here. When the worst thing an album possesses is short song lengths, there's a damn sure sign they've done something right. And this, notwithstanding their brutal next to last Norwegian-penned noise-monger that's on a level of audible irritation that'd be enough to piss your own self off waiting for the light to turn. "Ass Cobra" and its apparent affiliation with the not so keenly obvious, further solidified their unassuming identity as either the stupidest band in the world, or the most brilliant.
"Apocalypse Dudes" was both welcome and unexpected, doing double duty by tempering a previously out of control sound, furthering the inescapability of the intellect behind it. From here to there, think in terms of "Rocket To Russia" to "End Of The Century" or "Dressed To Kill" to "Destroyer?" Hank Von Helvete's image as the front man grew into this sordid made up mess reminiscent of a nightmarishly drunk vision that starred Charles Manson and King Diamond at the same time. Here was where yesterday's crotch-rock became more than just a bloated belly and spread cheeks? or in fact, that's exactly what it was! You don't have to look too carefully to spot the obligatory genitalia-based rhyming schemes to such album highlights as the single "Get It On," "Rock Against Ass" or "Rendezvous With Anus"; On the whole (hole?) it's an album on the edge of indecency and excess where private parts partake in a centrally-themed anthemic redramatization of arena-reared posturing fronted by a minds-eye portrait that comes off like classic Kiss with an eleven inch dick and matching pair of dense danglers.
Everything grew to a point where keeping it in the pants, as an ideal, left on the noon tuna boat. "Apocalypse Dudes" spoke volumes to who this band was, where they wanted to go, and the means they would take to get there regardless of how many minds were littered in the process. The sound, style, and production were all top grade; the tunes were elongated to twice their natural length without sacrifice of their expectedly bizarre behavioral tactics behind the mics and final mix, which at day's end were phenomenally fat. It was an album of fourteen more tracks to further the notion of pure genius resting on the brink of insanity where the boulevard of broken dreams becomes the playpen for surrealism and sarcasm, and fuck anyone who fails to find the humor. And point proven years before, but as if we needed reminding.
Turbonegro's talent for writing catchy and smooth yet dogged and edgy tunes that embodied all things Punk, Metal and Pop all came together in a climactic scene of "Search & Destroy," "Suffragette City," and "Somebody Put Something In My Drink".
Many point to the latter as the unparalleled classic moment, significant in where they left it off. However, between final outcomes, Turbonegro, as a band, had restructured and redefined itself, before nearly heeding their own advice (see song four on the upcoming "Scandinavian Leather!!") thus making quick judgments on behalf of either of them as better or worse, difficult to call. Both are alike, inescapably reared from the same tortured minds, yet very different (read Production x 3) and each is great in its own way. Bottom line is one of Rock's unheralded greats is back on the hog they abruptly hopped off five years before, fully determined to leave a new trail of mud tracks over the back of corporate clones and programmable safe-player types who know nothing of underground appeal, let alone success in longevity.