Delta blues, as interpreted by disaffected urban bookworms, has to be post-punk’s most over-explored, under-realized vein. Partly because they harbor no fantasies about bein’ down in the swamp, moonshine bottle in hand, and partly because they go after riffs like a pit bull after a mailman, Sydney, Australia’s King Snake Roost waste no time in making believers out of casual listeners.
On the 1987 debut, the fat, wriggling basslines of Michael Raymond (since departed) are impaled on rusty skeins of Charles Tolnay’s thug-jazz guitar. A feverish disc indeed. The follow-up leans more towards the modern world, with nods to pre-Modern Dance Ubu (in the bleating “Fried”) and a long-overdue tribute to the Legendary Stardust Cowboy (“The Ledge Does Vegas”). About the only misstep was not corrallin’ the Ledge for a guest shot.
Recorded Stateside with dairyland production legend Butch Vig, Ground into the Dirt proffers a sound at once burlier and more graceful, not unlike Killdozer fused with Funkadelic. Even with all four members sharing writing chores, there’s a frightening degree of singleminded aberrance — from singer Peter Hill’s bizarro haikus (“I Am Hog” in its entirety: “Call me hog. I am hog. Curly tail. I am hog.”) to bassist David Quinn’s malevolent, Burroughs-like cut-ups (“Travel Was a Meat Thing”). Start here and work backwards.
Tolnay previously led Grong Grong, where his fine abstract-expressionist guitar mist was subordinate to a series of overly pious Birthday Party eulogies like “Poor Herb” and “Louise the Fly.” Too bad.