Brutal Juice

  • Brutal Juice
  • How Tasty Was My Little Timmy? [tape] (Homus Boyus) 1991 
  • I Love the Way They Scream When They Die (Sound Virus) 1994  (Alternative Tentacles) 1994 
  • Mutilation Makes Identification Difficult (Interscope/Atlantic) 1995 

There’s an old Hertz commercial that shows O.J. Simpson and Arnold Palmer yakking about car rental rates. When O.J. confesses to overpaying, Arnie commiserates, “Brutal, Juice, brutal.” That was enough for this fascinating rock band from Denton, Texas, whose best work is like a steamroller massage but includes irregular time signatures and unusual chord progressions. Harmonies contrast the screamed vocal leads discoursing on intolerance, women, murder, space opera, women, murder, women, snobbiness, women…and Nietzsche. The pummeling drums, anchored by rugged bass, hurtle along energetically, carrying great sheets of rhythm guitar and spacey/noisy quasi-psychedelic solos. With one foot in a sophisticated variation on death metal, a taste for the frenzied energy of industrial, the destructive urges of the old Butthole Surfers and an abiding pop sense that’s more shocking than any of those impulses, the carefully controlled Brutal Juice is a smart bomb timed to blow up right in your face.

Founded by singer, guitarist and chief songwriter Gordon Gibson (who holds an M.A. in political philosophy) and powerhouse drummer Ben Burt, the pair eventually added guitarist Ted Wood, soundman Sam McCall on bass and co-lead singer Craig Welch, the unholy spawn of Iggy Pop and Huntz Hall (neither of whom has ever been known to put cigarettes out on his head as Welch does). How Tasty Was My Little Timmy? was cut before McCall joined the quintet, but six of its songs turn up again on the live I Love the Way They Scream When They Die. (Mutilation Makes Identification Difficult contains three numbers that are on both plus five more from the second.)

Mutilation Makes Identification Difficult, which was originally going to be titled Everything’s Coming Up Toilets (likely inspired by the bloody porcelain photo in the booklet), has only five previously unreleased songs, but it’s still the place to start. Opening with the harrowing menace of “Kentucky Fuck Daddy” rattling along at a swift 5/4 pace, the band dives into the hitman memoir of “Burpgun” (from whence comes the line “I love the way they scream when they die”) and then “The Vaginals,” an almost poppy ditty about girls who are “ugly on the inside.” After those newcomers, Brutal Juice proceeds to improve on all but one of the older songs recut for the album. Only “Whorehouse of Screams” receives a dubious rethink: the grim tale is well told and the first three minutes of frenzied jamming are compelling, but the last half of the 20-minute (!) track is just dicking around.

I Love the Way They Scream When They Die is largely made redundant by Mutilation, but it does include versions of the band’s first two A-sides (“Black Moment of Panic” and “Punk Fuck”) and an otherwise unreleased piece of nasty noise, “Pull the Plug.” Timmy is more worthwhile as it includes “Rock Town,” the catchy B-side of “Black Moment of Panic,” and “Dominick,” which contrasts dual-guitar riffola and primal scream mayhem.

[Jim Green]