Tragic Mulatto

  • Tragic Mulatto
  • Judo for the Blind (Alternative Tentacles) 1984 
  • Locos por el Sexo (Alternative Tentacles) 1987 
  • Hot Man Pussy (Alternative Tentacles) 1989 
  • Chartreuses Toulouse (Alternative Tentacles) 1990 

If you aren’t totally repelled by the first album’s title or indescribably grotesque cover painting, you may find yourself enthralled by Tragic Mulatto’s bizarre musical universe. The five members — whose names are given as Fluffy, Blossom, Flossy, Sweetums and A Piece of Eczema — collectively sing and play bass, drums, trumpet and sax. Produced with little sonic élan by Dead Kennedy bassist Klaus Flouride, parts sound like jazzy Flipper; an ominous rock rumble with jagged horn noise and dramatic vocals. Some numbers are faster and well-organized to the point where they resemble a ’40s big band on bad drugs; others could be an incompetent jazz combo vainly tuning up while someone soundchecks the microphones.

A suspiciously rechristened quartet (Reverend Elvister Shanksly, Flatula Lee Roth, Jazzbo Smith and Richard Skidmark) turned up for the salacious second LP (pointedly numbered VIRUS 69), a wild honking noise party that includes such brilliantly titled scatological creations as “Swineherd in the Tenderloin,” “Underwear Maintenance” (a detailed paean to menstruation) and a sex manual titled “Twerpenstein.” Strangely, the music is really good, with enough structural backbone to give the songs non- satirical legitimacy. Flatula the female vocalist (who triples on sax and tuba) is wonderful, and the taste-is-no- obstacle lyrics are funnier than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Fans of the vulgar but hysterical could do worse than to bathe in this delectable cesspool.

Hot Man Pussy presents a disheveled roar of improvisational guitar-and-sax noise over which Fistula (for it is she) and the Rev. E. Shanksley bellow songs like “She’s a Ho,” “My Name Is Not O’Neill” and the outstanding Blue Velvet-quoting “Mr. Cheese.” The incoherent blur of feedback and neck-wringing gets fairly numbing, but two digressions — the tuba’n’banjo closer (“The Sheriff of Weed”) and Fistula’s operatic vocal on “Hardcore Bigot Scum Get Stabbed” — provide welcome breaks in the action. (The CD also contains Locos por el Sexo.)

A well-rehearsed cover of Slade’s “I Don’t Mind” (with mondo guitar and a bit of tuba) gets Chartreuse Toulouse off to an excellent start, and the album rarely loses momentum from there, although the shrill “My Mother” and the lengthy and monotonous “Scabs on Lori’s Arm” are hazards to avoid. The solidly constructed (and, except for “Bathroom at Amelia’s,” conceptually tamer) songs, Flatula’s down-to-business Grace Slick-style singing and the quintet’s ability to follow a musical road map through a squealing storm of six-string horror (shifting into acoustic gear on a couple of folky tracks!) make this psychedelic trip one of Tragic Mulatto’s great adventures.

[Ira Robbins]