By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Country Teasers, Compulsive Gamblers
Scotland's Country Teasers are Shania Twain's inverse, a hideous aesthetic mirror image, coarse and misanthropic where the former is glossy and chummy. Where Ms. Twain's slick, Fairlight radio pop retains only the barest frame of Nashville form, the Teasers produce a primitive indie guitar sput unrefined to the point of being "country" in, well, name only occasionally. Both acts clearly adore country music, but neither really creates it. They'd make a baffling but oddly correct double bill. Instead, the Teasers appear at Club Clearview with the swaggering Memphis kings the Compulsive Gamblers, a much saner coupling (two of the Gamblers used to be in the spectacularly ham-fisted Oblivions; that fact alone makes the show worth attending). The Teasers' first recordings on Crypt Records were more chunk-style punk than country, manic and obnoxious to the core. Destroy All Human Life, their new collection on Fat Possum, turns down the flailing energy for a much more subdued murk owing more to mid-fi Royal Trux-y rambling than anything else: What was once clearly tied to the garage seems perfectly suitable for the rec room, albeit a rec room painted with bile.
Cranky, mumbling lead singer Ben Wallers seems determined to reinforce every old stereotype in the book about misanthropic Scots. Human Life seethes with a "kill 'em all then kill yourself" disgust strapped to rudimentary slide riffs and rapid, two-chord strumming. "Of women dressed in red be wary / Red is the uniform of tarts," gargles Wallers on the jumpy opener "Reynard the Fox." "Women and Children First" is an ironic ethnic cleansing (including "painters" and the "six fingered"), a humor-hate spew the likes of which you thought died with Michael O'Donoghue. Big Black closed the book on this sort of (hopefully) character-based ranting over a decade ago with far more intelligence and style, which is too bad, because the song's amazingly silly lyrics are wedded to the album's coolest, most atmospheric striding. "Brown Jews Etc." also seems pointlessly titled for maximum annoyance, while "Hairy Wine" declares a love for minorities and the KKK alike. As mentioned previously: pretty stupid.
Maybe it's just that this week's shooting in Los Angeles makes the timing seem kind of wrong for this sort of moral ineptitude, no matter how firmly the Teasers' tongues are poking their cheeks. But frustratingly, the Teasers aren't pure nastiness. Their version of "Deliverance From Misrule" is as close as they get to a straight-up country-stomp vibe, and a cover of "Almost Persuaded," David Houston's 1966 hit written by Nashville songwriting legend Billy Sherrill, is lithe and heartfelt amid the ruins. Of course, maybe they're being ironic about that as well.