Reviewed by Charlie Bertsch
Saturday, May 29 1999, 3:23 PM
It's hard to find frightening music these days. Think back to the era when Bill Haley and the Comets scared the parents of America. Now we have Marilyn Manson. But it's not the music that the mainstream media brands subversive, so much as the overall aesthetic that the band projects, a combination of risque lyrics, androgynous loungewear, and "controversial" statements for the major-label hype machine. The music itself pales by comparison. I mean, who really thinks that a reheated Mick Ronson guitar lick is going to bring the walls of the temple tumbling down?
This brings me to Tacoma's Botch. I listen to lots of out-there music. I've even been known to listen to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music for ten minutes at a time, on headphones, sober as Judge Judy. But I still find American Nervoso unsettling. It may not scare me out of my white trousers, but I'm sure it would send a large percentage of the music-buying public scrambling to turn off their stereos. Highlights? To be truthful, the songs sort of run together. Sometimes the hardcore takes a break, giving way to low-volume interludes that sound like imperfectly engineered dams, barely able to restrain the rising tide of noise. Those are the parts I like best.
The fifth track "Oma" provides the most dramatic example, as well as the added bonus of the German word for "grandma" shouted over and over as if it were a way to reach the devil on his psychic cell phone. Anyway, if I were still in high school, I'd try to turn my fellow members of the trenchcoat mafia on to Botch. Maybe we could sneak a boombox into a basketball game and blare this record during a time-out or, if we really wanted to be daring, at an inopportune moment during the action. The best part is that we could watch the crowd's reaction and talk about it afterwards, instead of having to put a gun to our heads. I can't think of a better argument for the moral value of art.
American Nervoso is a Hydrahead Records release.