By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Cowboys from hell
There's never been a question as to whether or not REO Speedealer rocks. Hell, man, that's all they do. They're the bastard sons of Lemmy and Jim Heath, abandoned at birth at Carl's Corner with a stack of nudie mags and a couple of pawn-shop guitars. They aren't worried about lyrics or different tunings or anything else; leave that to the college-rock bands who want to impress you with their book-learnin'. All these boys want to do is drink, screw, and find an amp that goes up to 11. Asking if REO Speedealer rocks is like asking if the Rangers suck: They always have, and they probably always will. But, again, that's all they do. It's fine to listen to while you're getting a tattoo or smashing an empty bottle of Bud against some guy's skull, but if you live in a home that doesn't have wheels on it (and never has), listening to REO Speedealer can be as tedious as listening to the band they stole their name from.
Their self-titled debut for New York-based indie Royalty Records is another late-night trip down the highway to hell, except the car is faster, the night is blacker, and the coffee can full of crank in the front seat is purer. The songs have been honed down to their essential elements: Jeff "sings" about cheap drugs and cheaper women, Mike plays his guitar like he's scratching the serial numbers off it, and the rhythm section of bassist Hot Rod and drummer Todd sounds like someone driving a lawnmower down a gravel road. Not a single moment is wasted, resulting in an album so short--15 songs, 19 minutes--you could listen to it during a smoke break. Each song screeches by so fast, it practically doesn't exist, leaving only a trail of fumes, a few empty beer cans, and a couple of tire marks. There aren't any surprises here, because surprises require growth, and the only way REO Speedealer could have grown less between albums is if they had let Gary Coleman and Emmanuel Lewis join the band.
Nobody really expects REO Speedealer to grow, or even wants to see it happen; who wants to hear a song like "Double Clutchin' Finger Fuckin'" played acoustically, or the orchestral version of "Pig Fucker"? The only thing about the band that will change is the number of tattoos they have and the amount of grease on their gimme caps, and that's probably the way it should be. They're the $2 whore of rock and roll--fast, cheap, and dirty--and they know that better than anyone. Like it or not, REO Speedealer is a necessary evil, counterbalancing a business that releases records by Third Eye Blind and matchbox 20 and calls it rock and roll. It's not for everyone, but until Pantera puts out another album or the Reverend Horton Heat stops sucking, it's for someone.
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