You figure it out. Mojo Nixon and sidekick Skid Roper first gained attention with a delicate love-letter ditty to then-MTV VJ Martha Quinn subtly entitled “Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin.” In addition to bluntly proclaiming his desire to get intimate with the perky Ms. Q, the call-and-response vocals in the bridge take on the whole institution: “MTV / Get away from me…I say, Music Television / Should be covered in jism.” Several years later, there’s Mojo doing spots on MTV, talking about post-punk philosophers while hanging from a jungle gym and serving as a roving reporter on the beach for Spring Break.
Sold out? Quite the opposite. Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper is a bit on the tame side — songs with titles like “Jesus at McDonalds” and “Art Fag Shuffle” should be great, but are merely clever. The North Carolina native finds his true voice on Frenzy. The musical accompaniment to Nixon’s often hysterical socio-political commentary is mostly a frisky down-home mixture of blues, R&B and rockabilly. Roper’s contributions consist of things like washboard, harmonica, mandolin, etc. Besides “Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin,” Frenzy offers Nixon’s appraisal of such topics as gigging (“Where the Hell’s My Money”), fatherhood (“I’m Living With the Three- Foot Anti-Christ”) and savings & loans (“I Hate Banks”). Add to that his hilarious checkout line tabloid spoof, “The Amazing Bigfoot Diet,” and a fleeting harmonica- driven version of “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida,” and this LP should appeal to anyone with a funny bone.
Get Out of My Way! is a seven-track mini-LP (issued, at one point, on clear vinyl) reprising “Stuffin'” and “Jesus at McDonald’s,” plus a few of Mojo’s very own Christmas songs. All of these tracks are included on the Frenzy CD.
Bo-Day-Shus!!! is every bit as big a hoot, with the epic “Elvis Is Everywhere” (finally revealing the identity of the much-feared anti-Elvis — sure to be a Trivial Pursuit question to some future generation) and a topical ode to the just-say-no crowd, “I Ain’t Gonna Piss in No Jar.” Other little slices of Americana include “B.B.Q.U.S.A.,” “Wash No Dishes No More” and “I’m Gonna Dig Up Howlin’ Wolf.” Folks, Nixon is the man this country needs — Mojo ain’t no Dick. (CD bonus cuts: “Don’t Want No Foo-Foo Haircut on My Head” and “The Story of One Chord.”)
Jim Dickenson’s [sic] production and a few extra sidemen makes Root Hog or Die relatively fancy (for Nixon and Roper, that is). Mojo kicks things off with the hilarious one-two pop-iconography punch of “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Love Child” and “(619) 239- KING” (a plea to locate Elvis who is, as we all know, everywhere) and follows it with a patriotic rendition of “This Land Is Your Land” that devolves into a convincing pitch for that imaginary trash heaven, Mojo World. The record sags a bit after that, although Skid’s “Tennessee Jive” serves up a sweet bit of Rockpilish rock and the Mojo sexuality rears its ugly head in “She’s Vibrator Dependent” and the funky “Louisiana Liplock.”
Skimming the scunge off the top of the Mojo and Skid oeuvre, the Unlimited Everything compilation condenses the best of the duo’s four albums for a brainbusting dose of raucous pop culturecide from the best in the business. (Kids, don’t attempt to sing these songs at home. These men are professionals.)
Parting company with Mojo, Skid formed a rocking cowboy/country band and launched his solo career with an amiable album of (mostly) romantic (mostly) originals. Jayne Robson’s vocals, harmonizing nicely with Skid’s, help the agreeable Trails Plowed Under drift along, a twang in its heart and nothing much on its mind. (The ironic “Please Forgive Me” is one clever exception.) Lacking his ex-partner’s demented imagination, Roper’s more modest talents as a frontman and songwriter make the album easy to hear but hard to remember. (The CD adds two bonus tracks.)
Meanwhile, Dickinson helped Mojo assemble the ultimate trailer-park-rock studio band for his solo debut. As John Doe (bass; X), Country Dick Montana (drums; Beat Farmers), Bill Davis (guitar; Dash Rip Rock) and Eric Ambel (guitar; Del-Lords) launch Otis into a solidly musical orbit, Mojo adjusts himself to such skilled company and straddles their sonic missile, ranting and raving about the legal profession (“Destroy All Lawyers”), ex-Eagles (“Don Henley Must Die,” complete with a relevant guitar quote), politics (the funky “Put a Sex Mo-Sheen in the White House”), Pogue teeth (“Shane’s Dentist”) and pomposity (the Stonesy “Ain’t High Falutin'”). With the exception of an unironic ballad bad enough to hopefully discourage any such missteps in the future, Otis is maximum Mojo.
For his next trick, Horny Holidays! puts a big wet Nixon pucker on seasonal songs, drawing material — classics, doggerel and originals — from diverse sources (Dr. Seuss to Chuck Berry, “Jingle Bells” to James Brown’s “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto”). Backed by a tight bar-room trio, raunchy of voice, suggestive of lyric whenever possible (check Jimmy Butler’s “Trim Yo’ Tree” and his own “It’s Christmas Time,” which could easy pass for the J. Geils Band) and as ruthlessly casual as can be, Mojo gives the holiday season a spirited and playful squeeze of the buttcheeks. Phil Spector would be…mortified.
Never the most insular rock’n’roller around, Mojo then spent some time making records with illustrious pals. Dragging the Toadliquors along to meet the elder statesman of San Francisco punk, he cut Prairie Home Invasion, a rousingly good political country rock album, and an EP with Jello Biafra. He also teamed up with more traditional cronies — Country Dick Montana and ex-Blaster Dave Alvin — to form the pro tem Pleasure Barons, a thirteen-piece extravaganza complete with horns and “choir.” Live in Las Vegas, which doesn’t bother to identify which Las Vegas stage (if any) actually withstood the revue’s revelry, gives equal time to all three principals. Alvin does his usual button-down rootsabilly work on such vintage jukebox memories as “Games People Play” and “Closing Time,” even working up a sprawling, bigtime “Gangster of Love.” Montana wraps his resonant pipes and boisterous spirit around “Take a Letter Maria,” “Who Do You Love?,” Nancy Sinatra’s “Jackson” and the two-song “Definitive Tom Jones Medley.” Mojo trots out three of the best numbers from his private stash and, with Alvin’s lead guitar as endorsement, effortlessly hijacks the show with careening, elongated performances of “Louisiana Lip Lock,” “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two Headed Love Child” and the geographically resonant “Elvis Is Everywhere.” (If not Las Vegas, then pray tell where?)
Looking after its own bizness for a change, the Mojo World Empire finally spewed out the long-awaited followup to Otis, the Eric Ambel-produced Whereabouts Unknown. With keyboard player Pete Gordon the only remnant of the Toadliquors (among the musicians are ex-dB’s drummer Will Rigby and guitarist Simon Chardiet of the Bar Sinisters), the playing is crisp and perfunctory country- rock; instrumental accuracy is thoroughly wasted on (if not toxic to) a vocalist this instinctual. Fortunately, Mojo is in credibly foul form, and has enough solidly entertaining originals to make his own party happen: the penis- enlargement fantasy of “Gotta Be Free” (“This is the greatest country on earth / Cause, honey, now I got girth!”), the swingin’ Gulf War protest of “My Free Will Just Ain’t Willin’,” the lowdown boogie of “Don’t Ask Me Why I Drink” and the woman-loving inconsideration of “Not as Much as Football.” “You Can’t Kill Me” is a six-minute barrelhouse epic of slide-guitaring all over the melody of “Amazing Grace” which Mojo uses as a podium for a litany of personal preaching, rabble-rousing and politicking. (He has, after all, been hanging around with Biafra.) For good measure, Whereabouts Unknown includes a sweet, sloppy solo acoustic rendition of the obscure oldie “If I Can Dream,” the uproarious “Tie My Pecker to My Leg” (co- written by Montana) and a properly obnoxious cover of Morrissey’s “Girlfriend in a Coma” that includes a sneak attack on the song’s author. Like Mojo says, you can’t kill rock’n’roll — no matter how hard he tries.