The only precedent most critics could find for the manic, crackling, power-pop destruction of Louisville, Kentucky’s Squirrel Bait was Hüsker Dü, and that myopic, ignorant comparison may unfortunately be the main way the band’s music is remembered. But singer Peter Searcy’s anguished delivery was like a frightened Paul Westerberg, ten years younger (and twice as animal brutish), on eighteen cups of coffee — the terrified scream of a boy being chased by an axe-murderer. With a total lack of refinement or restraint, David Grubbs and Brian McMahan’s distorted guitars threatened to blow the felt right out of your speakers. An immense sonic overload with monster hooks.
The self-titled debut may be a bit too thrashy for those unused to such fast speeds, but “Sun God” into “When I Fall” pack a total power wallop. The far better, more mid-tempo Skag Heaven manages to keep this intensity and great songs coming throughout, right from the opening shocker “Kid Dynamite.” An eye-opening, blasting, sweaty, over-the-edge satori not for the timid. Unfortunately, the group packed it in before its release (the members scattered to various colleges and launched other musical ventures), thereby diminishing Skag Heaven‘s impact and relegating Squirrel Bait to the little-known root of a burgeoning indie-band family tree. (Both records are available on a single compact disc.)