Perhaps the garage-band tradition is better entrenched in the Pacific Northwest than anywhere else in America because the region’s perpetual precipitation encourages folks to while away their days cranking amps in their own carports or searching for Sonics singles in their neighbors’. Gas Huffer, unlike more historically minded peers, seem to have divided the above pursuits properly — spending about 90 percent of their time at the former, using the latter as little more than coasters for those ever-present tallboys.
The quartet was formed at the turn of the decade by guitarist Tom Price (formerly the prime mover in the U-Men, a heavy, gnarled band that presaged — and outstripped — the ghosts of grunge future) and quickly garnered a rep as the apogee of Seattle’s party-rock sector. Swathed in a tastelessly absurd comic-book largely drawn by drummer Joe Newton, Janitors of Tomorrow ambles through familiar psychobilly territory, but Price’s left-field flourishes and singer Matt Wright’s defeatist blue-collar humor cast the scenery in a slightly different light.
It’d be a stretch to say Integrity Technology and Service is any more serious than its predecessor, but the album does sound a whole lot more coherent. The spot-on call-and-response vocals that propel “George Washington” (“What do you think of this song?/We think it’s going on too long”) and Don Blackstone’s crypto-surf basslines (on “Bad Vibes”) are uncannily professional — but then again, “I.T.S. Credo” reaffirms the band-held view of rock as hard manual labor. Moving to Epitaph, One Inch Masters dispenses with the 9-to-5 shtick (did the recession hit home or something?), but Gas Huffer still manages to self-reference with the best of ’em, as evidenced by the overdriven club-tour anthem “Stay in Your House.” Although the presence of harmonies, middle eights and such (no doubt the influence of producer Kurt Bloch) might give primitivists pause, there’s no disputing the outright dopiness of songs like “Chicken Foot” and the mock-doomy “Appendix Gone.” It’s not all super-premium, but the fumes will keep you going for a while. The Inhuman Ordeal of Special Agent Gas Huffer was also produced by Bloch and offers an attendant comic/lyric book available by mail.