Probably the most prolific band to emerge from Columbus, Ohio’s alcohol-fueled aggro-rock scene, Gaunt — like homeboys New Bomb Turks and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments — never met a punk they didn’t like. Borrowing bits and pieces from frenzifiers as historically diverse as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and the Necros, the quartet nevertheless makes up its own set of loud-fast rules.
After releasing a profusion of small-pressing singles, Gaunt moved up the size ladder one notch with the 10-inch Whitey the Man. Swathed in a snarky bowling alley sleeve and rife with redneck-baiting numbers like “Jim Motherfucker” (a reprise of an earlier single track), the provocative disc casts frontman Jerry Wick as a subversive mole in the belly of the know-nothing suburban beast. Sob Story, a collection of outtakes, may be moderately — okay, severely — fidelity-challenged, but between Wick’s George Jones-on-methamphetamine whine and Jovan Karcic’s no-frills strumming, songs like “Frustration” and “Each and Every Side Effect” show Gaunt developing a uniquely belligerent strain of jukebox-ready beer-jerkers.
The foursome left home to record I Can See Your Mom From Here (paid for, if the sleeve notes are to be believed, in car parts), which retains the reflexive spuzziness of previous releases, but boosts just enough recording quality to stave off those constant checks for stereo malfunctions. Wick really hits his stride on sneering hate-seeking missives like “Ohio” (an original that embraces one verse of the Neil Young song). Even though some of the targets and solutions are fairly obvious — “Rich Kid” (they deserve to die); “Revolution to Spite Your Face” (better to just stay home) — the album is a roaring success.
Yeah, Me Too is notable not only for incorporating shifts out of overdrive (on the uncharacteristically poppy title track and “Now”), but for containing some of the band’s most fully realized songwriting to date. Somebody should send Dwight Yoakam a copy of “Justine” and wait for the royalties to roll in.
Given the presence of songs like “Hand in Pants” and “Savior Breath,” it might be disingenuous to call Kryptonite Gaunt’s attempt to get in touch with their collective sensitive side. Still, Wick’s more measured delivery (heightened by the decision to unearth his gruff-but-touching vocals) and the more soulful structures (including some Dolls-styled R&B augmentations) impart an accessibility that goes mighty well with the foursome’s regular-joe constitution. In ’96, the industrious Wick began releasing thinly disguised solo records under the moniker Cocaine Sniffing Triumph.