Out There

Twisted Willies

Must've Been High
The Supersuckers
Sub Pop Records

The similarities between punk and country have been remarked upon enough to skip here, so let's just cut to the chase: In an arena filled with varying degrees of separation between the two camps, The Supersuckers' Must've Been High is some of the most raucous and affecting country-punk since the heyday of groups like Green on Red and Rank and File. By hanging around that great country cross-pollinator, Willie Nelson, the sardonic Seattle foursome put themselves on the road to mixing their tongue-in-(your)-cheek approach to hard 'n' fast rock with the dysfunctional, bleary-eyed heartbreak and self-pity of trad country, pulling in stylists like harmonica ace Mickey Raphael and guitarist Jesse Dayton in order to get the subtleties of the sound.

Of course, it takes more than pickers to pull off such a hybridization, a point Ween made abundantly clear with last year's hateful 12 Golden Country Greats. It takes affection--some degree of feeling behind the replication--which the 'suckers display in abundance, whether casting a spat with the Damned's Captain Sensible ("The Captain") as a gunfighter's showdown or rendering their own version of the remorseful headaches and tangled sheets of a misbegotten morning-after, with a suitably tattered hand from Kelley Deal ("Hungover Together").

Country and punk have both presented themselves as the music of the people, so it's little surprise that in the PC, downsized, lunch-at-yer-desk '90s, quite a bit of resonance is found in songs that are, at their hearts, sick and tired of being sick and tired. On numbers like the title track, "Dead in the Water," "Roadworn and Weary," and "One Cigarette Away," you can almost feel the narrator's back and feet, aching from loading 16 tons of supply-side coal. There's a constant theme, though, whether the band is visiting a double-edged bluegrass tribute that would make Killbilly proud ("Blow You Away"), caffeinated cowpunk ("Hanging Out with Me"), or all points in between--a profane-but-honest sense of humor that scampers about the archetypes, in no way diluted or deterred by the Dobro, steel, and fiddle that carry it along. Music seems to work best when it celebrates common ground, and scatology and screwing up work every bit as well as true love or class loyalty: The drawings on the walls of bars everywhere are pretty much the same, from shitkicker skull orchard to punk pub. With Must've Been High, the Supersuckers wryly make this point clear and seem to have uncommon fun in the process, bless their twisted, reverb-heavy little hearts.

--Matt Weitz


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