When singer Simon Denbigh was booted from March Violets, he wasted little time in assembling a more conducive outfit. On The Gods Hate Kansas, the Batfish Boys take the Violets’ dark post-punk and give it a traditional rock setting. Several of the best moments (“The Tumbleweed Thing,” “Mrs. Triffid” and the terrific single, “Swamp Liquor”) are reminiscent of the Cramps or Gun Club, utilizing creepy, twanging riffs and Denbigh’s weird, roughly grumbled lyrics to create a bluesy, desolate atmosphere. While the tunes are passable, Crocodile Tears suffers from a lack of this intrigue.
By Head, the group had devolved into muddy, guitar-driven rock with psychedelic blues overtones. They display plenty of panache, but the material is all too familiar. Lurve illustrates the problem. Chronologically assembling their British EPs from ’85 (including most of the tracks from Crocodile Tears) to ’87 (“The Bomb Song”), it reveals a downward spiral from imaginative swamp rock to mediocre pseudo-metal.
Apparently not boys anymore (and presumably aware how dumb the Batfish Men would sound), the group simply became Batfish with the release of the 1989 album. The generic, mid-tempo arena-metal on Batfish Brew is completely indistinguishable from scores of other practitioners. The only track that stands out does so for its utter inanity: a cover of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” with a feeble attempt to insert bits of Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” an exercise even more pointless than it sounds.