For my first installment of That's How It Is I am reviewing a CD sent to my by a dude named Glenn Johnson. The first thing I thought of was of course Don Johnson's classic "Heartbeat" but this (Parents Night at the Leper Colony by the Leisure Class) comes no where near that. Instead my ears were greeted by what could have been Frank Zappa & the Mothers fronted by Lee Ving with a heavy influence of the MC5, Chicago & Weird Al Yankovic. From the ultimate thrasher "Weekend Punk" (an underrated anthem of the entire punk movement), to the smooth jazz ballad "I'm Sorry I Made You Cry", this collection of 15 years of music is quite puzzling. Now this might seem like a lot of mish-mosh, but trust me, there's some rockers on there as well.
The album kicks off with "Thing Called Truth" a horn filled rock anthem with philosophical leanings. The next cut is a complicated mix of complicated guitar and bass runs and hilarious lyrics ("I saw beauty in a Burger King" product placement much?). "I Love You More" is a straight up rocker that could have been taken off a Sonic's Rendezvous B-side. It's lyrics of addiction and sex are at the essence of this band, who's lyrics are often dirty and greasy like a New York City street. "There", much like the longer cuts on a Black Flag album is a slow trudge through composer Glenn Johnson's knowledge of music. We get it dude, sometimes it's okay just to rock! "Alphonzo and the Gum Tree" is just a weird little instrumental, while "Young Gifted and White" is a spoof on Aretha Franklin's album "Young Gifted & Black", but instead of a positive message this one points fun at rich people and the blacks (Easy targets, huh?).
"Stalin" on the other hand, is a 17-second look at what it would be if Ramones songs were 2/3 guitar solos and shortened down to 1/8their size. "Joy" is a quasi-classical greasy funk tune that goes through a lot of shifts until it ends with aggrieved singer Dmitri Muganis yelling the title of the song over and over. Next we have "Weekend Punk", the gem of the whole bunch. This hard rocking balls-to-the-wall punk offering is just what's needed after this slew of complicated stuff. Straight up rock, talking about how it is to be a punk rocker from Detroit... classic! "Fragment 3" is another attempt at squeezing some classical, jazz, avant-garde and funk influences to the album. Not working guys! "Colloquy" is a free-jazz influenced rock number with poetry spouted about on top of it which builds up to a dirty poem read by an old man. I thought William S. Burrows was dead guys! And to change directions once again, "I'm Sorry I Made You Cry" sits right up there with Michael Bolton's "When a Man Loves a Woman": Very sentimental, very smooth, and very boring.
"Tuberculosis is Back" is a Rock-Anthem who's subject matter is probably better suited for a G.G. Allin song. Totally rocking, totally gross. "Bad Intentions" is more self indulgent creepy movie music with poetry. Come on guys, let's get to the rock and roll and leave the John Carpenter sound tracks behind! Another change when "It's All True" spoofs on the beach hits of the 60s. Very relevant, guys! "The Worst Song" is sort-of rocking, sounding like if a 70s rock band was going for a Tom Jones sound and decided to feature John Zorn on saxophone. Weird. "Jesus Almost Loved Me" and "Ready to Receive" are digs at organized religion with a lot of anti-gay, anti-religious, racist messages. And while the album tends to feature some rocking songs, the album ends with the sappy "Hymve", which wasn't even written by them. Next time pick a cover song people can jam out to!
Overall, if you like over-intelligent horn-laced rock with the rantings of a want-to-be poet of a generation, this is the collection for you. If you like your music with a lot of sack and a lot of funny jokes, this is the collection for you. If you like weird instrumentals that are a little confusing, mixed with a combination of punk and parody, this is the album for you. If you like your rock straight up and without a whole lot of mumbo jumbo, I suggest you go buy something by the MC5, the Stooges or the Pezband. If you do however like your rock to sound like the Tubes, D.O.A., Blood Sweat & Tears, and Uncle Floyd mixed up in a blender, go buy yourself a copy of Parent's Night at the Leper Colony by the Leisure Class.
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