Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 6: Butthole Surfers, "Sweet Loaf"

Artist: Butthole Surfers
Song: "Sweet Loaf"
Album: Locust Abortion Technician
Year: 1987


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When it comes to making completely original music, there are very few bands worthy of being given such a title.  While there are countless groups that have made exceptionally good music, those who stand in categories all their own due to their musical approach remain exceptionally rare.  Yet it is within the music of such bands that much of the most exiting and influential musical achievement in all of music history can be found, but some such groups remain arguably overlooked due to other aspects of their existence.  Though they are often grouped as "just punk," the truth of the matter is, there has never been another band that even remotely sounded like the music of Butthole Surfers, and the group is unquesitonably responsible for some of the most intriguing and absolutely original recordings of all time.  While they would achieve some commercial success a few years later, there is no arguing that the bands' tour dé force lives within their absolutely breathtaking 1987 release, Locust Abortion Technician, and the record remains unparalleled to this day.  Filled with a brilliant combination of punk, hardcore, metal, blues, noise, and funk, all pulled together in songs that have undeniable pop appeal, there has simply never been another record quite like this, and one can quickly understand just why Butthole Surfers stand as such crucial figures in the development of countless genres within their 1987 song, "Sweet Loaf"

From the moment that "Sweet Loaf" begins, one of the primary influences on the song and band are unabashedly clear, as both the name as well as the first main riff pay tribute to the legendary Black Sabbath song, "Sweet Leaf."  However, this is where any sort of similarities cease, as guitarist Paul Leary slides into a truly gorgeous, more relaxed melody, before shifting back into an aggressive chord progression that is almost akin to those found on Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla."  It is the way that Butthole Surfers shift seamlessly back and forth between moods and pace that make "Sweet Loaf" such a stunning musical experience, as they make this six-plus minute musical exploration seem completely effortless.  In many ways, "Sweet Loaf" attempts the "wall of sound" musical approach, and they succeed in brilliant fashion, as the song completely bowls over the listener, and the power of the track remains even after repeated listenings.  Drummer "King Coffey" is in top form all across the track, giving it an imposing presence, and the fact that former-band-drummer Teresa Nervosa returns on this song gives it an even more aggressive feel, pushing the energy to unmatched levels.  Keeping the song rooted in a deep, dark groove, bassist Jeff Pinkus deploys the finest performance of his career, and "Sweet Loaf" is without question a song that must be experienced firsthand to be properly understood and appreciated.

While the music of Butthole Surfers is absolutely peerless, it is impossible to downplay the importance of the vocals and lyrics of their music, and this is where one can experience the true genius of band founder, Gibby Haynes.  Performing with a voice that is truly unmistakable, in many ways his vocal approach is an amalgamation of a number of earlier performers, and once again, one can see the bands' influences, yet at the same time there has never been any similar recording.  There is a fantastic grind and grit to Haynes' singing, and even within the existence of this "heavy" sound, one can constant detect a light, almost menacing tone in his voice.  It is this strangely playful nature that makes "Sweet Loaf" so endearing, and it is also this aspect that makes the track one by which listeners cannot help but be completely mesmerized.  Though the lyrics to "Sweet Loaf" are almost entirely Haynes singing notes as opposed to actual words, there is a power within this that defines just "why" Butthole Surfers are in a musical category all their own.  All across the track, Haynes completely gives into the power and spirit of the music over which he is singing, and this submission leads to a vocal track that is brilliantly lyrical without any need for actual words.  Such an achievement has rarely been accomplished anywhere else in music, and it is the purity in this performance that almost demands the listener to sing and shout along with Haynes' fantastic vocals madness.

One can easily argue that when "Sweet Loaf" was released, the world simply had no idea how to "deal" with the track, as it defines nearly every convention of music.  Whether it is the songs' musical structure, the shifting tempos and moods, or the absolutely dizzying overall feeling, there is no precedent for the track, and it remains in a category all its own to this day.  This outright musical anarchy defines the spirit of Butthole Surfers, and yet most have not experienced this true genius due to the band sporting what may very well be the most infamous name in all of music history.  Until their rather surprising breakthrough "hit" a few years later, one can easily argue that their name alone kept them off of radio airwaves, and yet one cannot deny the amazing musical mastery that can be found on "Sweet Loaf."  The exceptional level of talent displayed by every member of the band all across the track pushes them far beyond a simple classification of "just punk," and the entire Locust Aborition Technician record remains one of the most brilliantly original efforts of all time.  Furthermore, the vocal technique found on "Sweet Loaf," which would be given the name "Gibbytronix," would be borrowed and altered by a number of bands that followed, solidifying the bands' spot as one of the most important of their generation.  Striking the ideal balance between countless musical influences and finding a way to make a completely new and unique sound, there is simply no other song in history that can match the power and presence of Butthole Surfers' phenomenal 1987 song, "Sweet Loaf."

1 comment:

Trentent Silver said...


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