This potent Austin, Texas quartet started out with a remarkably unsettling outlook and wound up — at least the members did following the band’s dissolution — playing a crucial role in the development of late-’80s noise rock that has taken deep root in the industrialized Midwest. The eight intense songs on Scratch Acid live up to their abrasive promise, powerfully and painfully muscling around just on the edge of listenability, with only sometime-Big Boy Rey Washam’s strong drumming to anchor walls of guitar noise and (ex-Toxic Shock) David Yow’s hysterical shriek-singing. In spots, relative restraint and organization prevail, and the record succeeds in conveying something; elsewhere, an overdose of PiL/Birthday Party takes hold and you get nothing but chaotic, raw angst that is simply no fun at all. Some of the inspired lyrics (“Cannibal,” “Monsters”) are classic Mondo Cane material, but a more palatable sonic setting would have increased their impact.
Without sacrificing a jot of their psycho weirdness, Scratch Acid show a mite more focus and control on the full-length Just Keep Eating. The music is just as virulent and loud, but Yow’s increased effort to be understood gives an extra kick to the demented lyrics of songs like “Eyeball,” “Unlike a Baptist” and “Crazy Dan,” the longwinded chronicle of a crazed murderer. Fun stuff!
Lacking the far-reaching conceptual imagination of the Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid keep the presentation simple while reaching deep into the lyrical cesspool on the Berserker EP’s six well-produced songs. Yow’s raging, hysterical delivery goes nicely with the punk wash of “Mary Had a Little Drug Problem” and a perverted character study called “Moron’s Moron,” but the words are their most amusing element. Likewise, the festering dermal ugliness of “Skin Drips” (accompanied by a bluesy swing) and the ironic near-hardcore of “This Is Bliss” do their best work on the lyric sheet. Throughout the 12-inch EP, debauchery, vulgarity and viciousness intertwine for a truly seedy experience.