Agony Shorthand

Wednesday, March 19, 2003
CHEATER SLICKS "YER LAST RECORD"....The Cheater Slicks have been one of my favorite bands of the past decade-plus, a flat-out garage punk powerhouse who've been threatening to extend their reach beyond that limiting genre for several releases now (and mostly succeeding). Easily one of the best live bands I've seen as well -- two distorted, feedback-choked guitars amped up to unholy levels, primitive bashing and screaming from wildman drummer/singer Dana Hatch, and songs that shatter all local noise ordinances while still staying totally coherent -- well, I've never seen anything like them, and they've been nothing less than stellar the five times I've been lucky enough to catch them since 1991. During a dark, inward time spent contemplating the bleak future of rock music a few years ago, I made a CD-R compilation of the Slicks called "The Cheater Slicks: The Last Rock Band". I meant it, too. So it's only appropriate that their latest release is entitled "Yer Last Record" -- not their much-rumored last record, but YOURS.

There's something on this one that you've never seen on one of their records before: "all songs written by the Cheater Slicks". They've gone from being a secret cover band -- secret because most of us had never heard the originals, and they weren't tellin' -- to doing pretty much whatever they want to do. As on their last one, Refried Dreams (which I actually wrote the liner notes for), the band is stretching out their sound, choking off a lot of the obvious 60s-style riffing in favor of varied approaches to the loud (and even not-so-loud) garage-flavored rock and roll song. This one's another notch on their collective belt, I'd have to say -- with a few caveats. At their best ("Please Explain It", the lead track "Momentary Muse"), the band are totally explosive, as the Shannon brothers' guitars careen off and wrap around each other like a drunken, even more addled Brother Wayne Kramer & Sonic Smith. One of the only bands I know of where you're actively rooting for the guitar solo(s) to begin!

At their worst ("Miss Q", "Green Light"), they're kinda like a shitty sports team at the end of the season -- just playing out the string, waiting to pack it in (and break up? I swear they seem to be telegraphing this one as the end of the line, up to & including a closing track called "Goodbye". Their label head says it ain't so). Misanthropic and borderline misogynist (not a term I like to throw around lightly, but if the shoe fits...), the Cheater Slicks sometimes play their music like they're so angry & uptight they'd rather send a big fuck-you to the world (again, "Green Light") than create great songs. Thankfully, that's very rare, but a drag that they do it at all when you consider how amazing these guys have been year after year. Most folks who'd given me advance word on this one told me that it was good, but a drop in quality. I don't think so -- the Cheater Slicks are still head & shoulders better than just about anyone out there, and "Yer Last Record" proudly belongs on the shelf with your 7 other Cheater Slicks CDs (you do have the others, right? If not, click here)