review by: Larissa Glasser
This much can be told from a Bostonian’s perspective: by 1989, our live music scene migrated from ferocious thrash metal like Wargasm, Executioner, and Formicide to anemic, sensitive artist rock like O Positive, Bulkhead, and Dumptruck. Granted, such polarity is true with any music scene at any time of the post-industrial revolution. Boston’s own cultural history offsets frothing hardcore with the sentient pop success of The Cars or even Aerosmith. But for college freshman hunger, the Boston scene of 1989 had devolved into a weeping weakness.
Minnesota’s Bastards helped change some of that. This Midwestern import of searing noise hatred inspired Boston bands like Red Bliss, Kudgel, Madbox, and The Tulips to forsake subtlety in their music and aim straight for the testicles.
Apart from a few singles, Bastards’ Monticello is the band’s only full-length. Guitarist/vocalist Joachim Breuer used an icy, chorus-laden distortion offset by his menacing and confrontational singing style. When the man screamed, his head would tilt back like Lemmy and his mouth would open so wide, it would appear to split his head in two.
Bassist Anthony Martin also reveled in dirty volume, tuning his bass down to the lowest possible depths his intonation would allow, picking the notes with destructive zeal. Tommy Rey’s drumming is Nick Mason-minimalist, but cavernous and Godflesh-y. The pure sound-kill of this record comes from Butch Vig, who later went on to produce breakthroughs for Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Sonic Youth.
Monticello takes noise rock to a inspiring level. Arguably the only known runners-up to Bastards at the time were Unsane, Steel Pole Bathtub, The Cows, and Monstertruck 005.
The album opener, "Hole," is the perfect map of what to expect from the rest of the album. Rabid power chords (bass included) dominate the song and structure a simple, punk binary equation. The title "Hole" itself seethes with irony: after the demise of Bastards, Joachim Breuer formed Janitor Joe with the talented, lithe, classically trained distorto-bassist Kristen Pfaff, only to have the latter scooped up by Courtney Love in 1993. Pfaff died the following year of a heroin overdose in Seattle, a few months after Kurt Cobain’s suicide.
The words in "Hole" make The Dwarves, Mentors, and even Meat Shits sound like radical left-wing feminists: "Slide my arm around your waist / I’m gonna punch your guts, slap your face / Stick a knife into your hole / I’m gonna cut you of your self control..."
Although "Hole" is without equivocation lyrically, it is brief and understated compared to the rest of the album.
"Razor" is much slower, but somehow more threatening. Breuer starts in with a rumbling growl that rises into a venomous shriek, telling the story of how he used to believe in the fallacies of life until he realized that scarring his own face and neck with his razor brought the truth out. Creepy.
"Don’t Know Much" sets, in concrete, the sittin’ on the stool, Delta Blues quality of this band (except that they happen to be playing at threshold volume). Simple major chord ascent accompanied by pounding, monomaniacal drums are so primal, one feels compelled to sing along. Good luck figuring out the lyrics: "What condiment am I?" That can SOOOO not be it...
Ah, "Joy of Gardening." If you can only spare two minutes for Bastards Monticello, make it this one. Glass breaking, cruel bass with all open strings at the same time, and repeated mantra with vocals that make Satan sound like a girl: "Yeah / Wow / Yeah / You’re always laying in to someone / You’re always laying in to someone / You never gave a shit for no one / You’re always cutting in to someone." This one doesn’t need to tell the whole story: anger LACED WITH CONVICTION is the beginning, middle, and end of it. The song is fucking sublime.
"Drunk" really lays on the heaviness, with a sweeping tantrum that glorifies the numbing defilement of being so inebriated, the world is all stink and folly.
"Big Waste" is not one of the strongest cuts on the record, but the overdubbed vocals are menacing and a decent enough rewind.
"Neighbor" starts off the second side of the record with a really cool riff and chorus that sound almost post-industrial in their catchiness. Breuer’s screams on this cut could castrate a charging bull. The story about violence against busybody neighbors is something we can all relate to.
"Bo Diddley" is one of the faster, UN-bluesy ditties, involving a basic, rolling drum pattern that when paired with the chord bludgeon, makes everything sound heavier. I myself never thought of Bo Diddley in sexual terms, but that won’t hinder the suggestion that "Bo Diddley go to the Chicken Place / But that ain’t to say he got no class / Bo Diddley stick a dick in your ass / Bo Diddley stick a dick in your ass." It’s awesome that these Bastards sing the most odious lines TWICE.
"Drive My Car" is actually "Tease my cock…(life gets dry)." Just sit back, and let the laughs reign as Breuer screams "’Cos she’s SO TIGHT, SO TIGHT, SO TIGHT" for about a minute. One of the best songs ever.
"Lithium" is doomy and foreboding, a linear tantrum of repudiation and scorn that is not meant to cheer anyone up.
The closing, title track to Monticello may be the winner of the entire vitriolic slab, hands down. Where else are you going to hear a song that COMMANDS you to kill yourself, in so many words?
"There’s only one way to break free… Put over an example, kids in the car… yeah, you’ve got to kill yourself, KILL YOURSELF, relax… relax…"
Along with the two-chord limitation, trudging advance, and downright terrifying violence, this song confirms what we’ve suspected all along, the Bastards Monticello is INTENDED to injure, to harm, and traumatize. Can terrorism be made to feel quaint by audio hatred?
See, part of what makes music so awesome is the emotion it broadcasts. Effectiveness hinges on the techniques, innovation, and repudiation of cliche. Now, let’s take this to the apocalyptic extreme.
Bastards Monticello is most assuredly NOT a metal album. This record has heavy elements to it, but its method of execution is very divergent from even Motorhead’s blues attack. This classic actually redefines anger as a menacing but also proactive leisure activity.
So good luck finding this, the fucker’s been out of print for many years.