Out & About

Some things never go out of style, and if the recent fracas stirred up by the "how to prepare a kitty" mpeg on the Internet is any indication, Pavlovian revulsion is one thing that's here to stay. Of course, people who get riled up over such detritus usually aren't any less single-minded than the ones who find it amusing. Both have fanned the fires that fuel the underbelly of American rock for almost 20 years now. And while the knee-jerk response to a band named Anal Cunt is that here's another group of guys--this sort of thing is almost exclusively male--treading in the adolescent rebellion of Dwarves or early Butthole Surfers, AC is a creation completely unto itself.

Formed in Boston in the late '80s, this grindcore trio has gone through numerous lineup changes but always has been anchored by vocalist Seth Putnam, though "vocals" per se are rarely found on AC releases. An AC song is a short annihilation of guitar, drum and vocal abuse that makes the Ruins sound unplugged. It's a borderline indecipherable blast, typically around a minute, that's best described as "metal," though that genre usually doesn't welcome such a damaged-goods approach. Album titles stick to basic metal-head outrage (such as Everybody Should be Killed or It Just Gets Worse), while song titles swerve dramatically from mock irony--"MTV is My Source For New Music" or "When I Think of True Punk Rock Bands, I Think of Nirvana or the Melvins"--to truly tasteless, middle-class, white-boy acrimony--witness "You Got Date Raped" or "Body by Auschwitz."

What's actually inventive about AC is its blending of '80s British noise assault (Napalm Death, Carcass, Godflesh) with the unchecked middle-finger repulsion of late-'80s American scum-punk (Bastards, Unholy Swill, Crackhouse). In fact, when AC started to make a name for itself--aside from the notoriety it garnered because of its name--in the early 1990s, it seemed to be the contemporary metal entry in the then-emerging art-noise assault of bourgeois indie rock that included Harry Pussy and Merzbow, a genre that arguably goes back to prototypes like Whitehouse.

The problem with Anal Cunt--other than the obvious--is that it only does the one thing. Nouveau no-wave extremists such as To Live and Shave in L.A. and Lake of Dracula at least knew how to go totally overboard--their flippant attitude seeped into the music, performance, fashion and politics. And even what seemed to be a one-trick pony like Harry Pussy burned brightly for three short years and broke up to leave a legend in its wake. AC only goes so far as to poke good taste, and it usually tickles less than a direct hit to the funny bone. It's spread its malevolent good cheer over some 25 CDs, EPs, 7-inch singles and compilation appearances, but to most folks, that joke simply isn't funny anymore.

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Bret Mccabe