Pisswater Preachers – Homebaked Methblack Magick (Octomatic Metamorph Recordings/Crass Lips Records)
I don’t know what’s going on here, and I couldn’t be happier.
With a lineup that includes Steve Kemple on “silence, laughter” and features Jonathan Hancock’s frenetic horn blasts (I met Hancock when playing the now-sadly defunct Rake’s End in Cincinnati – he showed up to the venue with all visible parts of his body sporting silver spray paint), Pisswater Preachers heartily embrace all shades of weird. That the resultant product coalesces into coordinated chaos, catchy songs unexpectedly rising from the miasma of fractured id, is icing on the cake.
I’ve known David Hagerdorn, one of the group’s vocalists, since his days in Iowa City as co-vocalist in the legendary Possum Sac (as well as the Kickass Tarantulas, Family Van, and probably several others I was too hazed at the time to recall now). Since relocating to Cincinnati, he has released two albums with his band the Warrior Poets. These discs, while pretty damned great in their own right, only hint as the madness that unfolds on Homebaked Methblack Magick.
“White People” presents itself as something resembling the first proper “song”, following two cacophonous tracks where voices bounce across the stereo field as trumpets blather and all manners of noise caterwaul wall-to-wall. Beginning with the evocative couplet “as i lay in a pool of vomit/i couldn’t remember my name”, the song goes on to assert that “white people should not breed”, suggesting, um, various ways to engage in sexual activity that circumvents conception.
Troy Gallagher’s angular guitar asserts itself on “Schizophrenic Love Affair.” The persistent ranting above the music suits the song’s title, surrounded by supporting layers of male and female vocals, some modulated heavily, as well as assorted toy noisemakers. Throughout the album group sing-a-longs of a sort further derange the tunes. The background vocals by Megan Miller resemble someone scat singing while gargling razor blades, which of course perfectly accents Hagerdorn’s proclamations.
The guitars get tougher on “Froggy Went’a Courtin’”, with David “Daddy” Hagerdorn’s vocals matching and eventually surpassing the instrumental intensity. “Mountain” is the closest the Preachers get to a Warrior Poets song, minor key arpeggiated guitar laying the foundation for Daddy’s dark blues belting, before dissolving into cacophony, then rebuilding itself from scattered ashes.
Toy percussion instruments and noisemakers add further discomfort, the xylophone and harmonica intimating demented childhood fantasies. Songs like “I’m Not Touching You,” with its snotty boy/girl call and response, recall how vulgar childhood really is, and connect it to an unhinged present.
At the end of “Glory Road”, Daddy sings “no I needn’t walk alone” – and that may be the obscured core of Pisswater Preachers’ strength. Freaks needn’t walk alone. As Fred Schneider sang in “There’s a Moon In the Sky (Called the Moon),” “there’s others like you/others LIKE you.” Pisswater Preachers reveal themselves to be a special brand of inclusive, embracing flaws and failures and reflecting them in song.