Singer Mark Arm has described Five Dollar Bob's Mock Cooter Stew as an opportunity to "get new music out to the fans between albums." It consists of seven tracks, four of which were brand new, two of which were released as b-sides to singles, and one is a re-recording of a prviously available song. The five new recordings were all finished in the span of about 45 minutes, but don't come off sounding rushed. Instead these songs exude intimacy, and a sense of levity.
The E.P. opens with "In The Blood", a drudging "ballad" of sorts with organ flares that complement the sloppy meandering of the band. "No Song III" is a youthful, punk-y whirlwind splattered with drummer Dan Peters' signature fills and flourishes. The country-western tinged "Between You and Me Kid" is fun and irreverent. It showcases the band's expanding arsenal of styles, and helps cement that Mudhoney is a lot more than just a "grunge" band. On the other end of the spectrum, "Six Two One" is about as classic-sounding Mudhoney as you can get. Piece of Cake's "Make It Now" appears here in re-recorded form as "Make It Now Again". (This song got its name from an experience Arm and Turner had in traffic. An ambulance was trying to cut through, and the driver got on a loudspeaker and shouted "Make a hole! Make it wide! Make it now!") Here, the song is sped up a few bpm's, and the muddy psychadelia accented a little more. This song is the first incarnation of a sound Mudhoney would perfect on Since We've Become Transluscent. The last two tracks, "Deception Pass" and "Underride" are peppy little alterna-rock numbers that are enjoyable, but sound like. . .well, like b-side material.
Five Dollar Bob's Mock Cooter Stew definitely rocks at some points, but overall, the feel of this E.P. is fun. The band even had fun in the writing of the liner notes. Producer Kurt Bloch is listed as "Curt" and "Kurdt", a little jab at Kurt Cobain who was known for purposely misspelling his name in liner notes. Fortunately they got this joke off when they did, as jokes about Cobain would become taboo just months later.
Five Dollar Bob's Mock Cooter Stew - 7 out of 10
Paul Hudson (H.R.) has been an unpredictable artist in myriad ways for all of his career. His vocal stylings are characterized by starts and stops, screams and croons, rage and peace all existing simultaneously. The musical styles he has chosen to participate in are almost as unpredictable as his actual performances. With the Bad Brains, he has sung raging, break-neck hardcore, as well as sunny, cool reggae tunes, and grindy funk metal.
On his first full-length solo album, Human Rights, (his first release since Bad Brains re-formed that same year) he adds another layer of style to his arsenal. It's hard to pin down exactly what style this exactly is, but it combines elements of soul, funk, reggae, R&B, and rock. Unlike other works this artist has been involved in before or after this particular one, all these varying elements exist at the same time in the songs, not as seperate ideas. Where on a Bad Brains album, you will get one hardcore song, followed by one that is most definitely reggae, and then the next song will return to hardcore, on Human Rights songs twist and bend upon themselves, defying categorization. The result is a bit schizophrenic, but not unpleasant.
Lyrically, the content is standard H.R. fare; predictable enough, but strong enough to carry the songs. Obviously he touches very strongly on issues of human rights ("Now you say 'No more welfare!' Must we work for you, with all the evil things you do? Abusing your holy laws, so vain. . .") which is an issue that the singer has found so central to his views, that he changed his stage name to H.R. because of it. There's also a good number of Rastafarian themed tunes on here ("I Luv King Jah", "Conquering Judah") which lend to the feeling that this is a gospel record with a message, not just a pop record recorded just for the fun of it, though this album most certainly is fun, in its own way.
Human Rights - 7 out of 10
Marking their 25th Anniversary as a band, "Coaster" is the 11th release by punk rock legends NOFX. The title is a cheeky reference to the direction the music industry is taking where compact discs are becoming obsolete and not much good to many people except as something to rest your drink on.
I must admit I was excited at the beginning of this month when I found out that in addition to Anti-Flag, Rancid, Bob Dylan, Green Day and many other bands that I enjoy, NOFX would have a new album to kick this summer off. I rushed to the record store right after work and picked up my copy for a steal: $8.
Over the last couple of years and albums, NOFX has embraced their old age, alcoholism and "career" as a punk band and renderred songs on these subjects that range from hilarious ("60%," "Mattersville," "Theme From A NOFX Album") to bland ("Wolves In Wolves Clothing.") "Coaster" is no different, and fans will find few surprises within it's twelve tracks. "First Call" is a festive celebration of the morning after being no reason to stop the party, "Best God In Show" mocks the simple mentality of blind faith in religion, "The Agony Of Victory" is yet another send up of the band's ever-growing age; all firmiliar subjects, packed with a few new twists on the jokes.
As a complete product, the album is enjoyable, though not remarkable. The instrumentation is very good, as would be expected, the production is clear, though not slick (which is definitely on purpose, as the band thanks many early punk bands by name in the liner notes as inspiration over the years) and the songs are catchy without being too bubble gum-y. As far as NOFX albums go, it won't go down in history as ground breaking by anyone's standards, but I'm sure they didn't intend it to. NOFX has not been a band seeking to expand its audience beyond the core that's already on board, and so "Coaster" is not a failure at all, it is just another chapter in the story of an aging punk band.
Coaster - 7 out of 10.