Obnoxious, crude, offensive, blasphemous, tiresome and funny — the Meatmen are one band you’d never be able to explain to your parents (or even the vast majority of your peers). The rude punk parodists from Michigan heard on the infamous Blood Sausage and Crippled Children Suck 7-inches stomped on the sensitive issues of society with a coarseness that makes dead baby jokes seem like church fare. If there were some reference points — something the Meatmen did care about — the gratuitous and tedious irreverence might have had some real shock value.
We’re the Meatmen…and You Suck! (initially pressed on white vinyl) runs aground in a sea of unoriginality. The puerile forays into morbidity (“One Down Three to Go,” about the Beatles), homophobia (“Tooling for Anus”), misogyny (“I’m Glad I’m Not a Girl”) and racism (“Blow Me Jah”) are too familiar and predictable to be outrageous. A little more wit would have made the Meatmen a more engaging (if despicable) cartoon. One side of the album is live; the other is a reissue/remix of Blood Sausage.
The original Meatmen dissolved when singer/schoolteacher Tesco Vee moved to Washington DC, but his resulting itchiness bore fruit in the form of a solo record. Aided by guitarists Lyle Preslar and Brian Baker of Minor Threat (both of whom subsequently helped Vee form a new, improved Meatmen) and produced by Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye, Dutch Hercules stands on more solid musical ground. Apparently mellowing with age, Vee limits the objects of his attacks to lesbians, blacks, post-punkers and rock stars. The satire works better because he offers himself as an object of parody. The only useless cut is a side-long disco perversion (“Crapper’s Delight”).
With the new five-jerk lineup, War of the Superbikes focuses and refines the Meatmen’s miserable charm, retooling the punk onslaught into a strong, sharp-edged rock sound and presenting a mixed material grill, from utterly inoffensiveness (the great title track and “Abba God and Me”) to typical juvenalia (the flamencoed “Kisses in the Sunset,” “Cadaver Class” and a cover of the Pagans’ “What’s This Shit Called Love,” which opens as a demented Elvis parody). Just what the doctor ordered! Bonus: spoken-word tripe hidden at the end of each side.
James Cooper replaced Baker (off to start Dag Nasty) on Rock’n’Roll Juggernaut, leaving the Meatmen a musically undistinguished rock machine, playing tight but plain guitar raunch. Amid bursts of worthless comedy shtick, Vee’s lyrics keep the faith, leering salaciously while attacking foreigners (“French People Suck,” “Dichstrudel”), American proles (“True Grit”) and health nuts (“Nature Boy”) with the unenthusiastic knee-jerk bravado of morons yelling out car windows at women to impress their friends. Yawn.
We’re the Meatmen…and You Still Suck!!!, recorded at two dates on the ’88 farewell tour, finds the crew raging through songs from every previous platter and the Vee EP, plus an exuberant Sweet (“Rebel Rowser” [sic]) cover. The funniest item — besides Tesco’s between-song raps — is “Camel Jockeys Suck,” completing the “Suck” trilogy (all set to the same tune). On the debit side, final guitarist Stuart Casson’s generic metallicisms are simply no match for Baker’s fantastic lead work, thus the Superbikes songs — the heart of the set — are a step down from the studio versions. (It’s a shame that with all the live Meatmen material left to posterity, the superior ’85 gig lineup remains undocumented.)
The Crippled Children Suck album contains the entire Crippled Children EP, a Blood Sausage outtake, a fair set of ’81 demos, one live track from ’82 (the notorious, never-before-released “TSOL Are Sissies”) and three live cuts from ’84 (the updated “Becoming a Gay Man” is a must-hear). Stud Powercock, as its subtitle makes clear, collects every track on the Touch and Go releases (even Dutch Hercules and this new compilation) on one CD, making it a definitive retrospective of the band’s original Midwest existence.