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Their first crack hit a homer for originality - 90%

Gutterscream, April 17th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1989, 12" vinyl, Roadracer Records

“…I thought I heard a million scream up and over the big machine…”

Sinister Funkhouse #17. Sinister FUNKhouse #17. My very first thoughts were this was gonna suck. Got about halfway through lead off “Gush Volcano Crush” (intro “Good Mourning from the Funkhouse” is almost half a minute’s worth of an agonized moan over unimportant effects) and thought maybe this was gonna be pretty good. Halfway through “Blood Brother of the Big Black Bear” and I was back at suck again, however it seemed at least more interesting than yer average suck. More importantly, the funk nightmare I was dreading seemed almost totally muted. In any case, funk or suck, the PR person over at Roadracer was expecting to read about what I’d heard in the months to come. Y’see, the worst thing about receiving promos is you have to (or really should) review them, suck or not. Best part is they’re free, suck or not. And back then they were conveniently delivered to your doorstep. I’m pretty sure our mailwoman thought I sucked after ten years in the fanzine world.

So, dare we be blessed by Sinister Funkhouse #17 and its screwy song titles? Looks like a real winner. We've got some naked guy called Buddo prancing angrily across the front cover. Yep, just what I wanna see. Looked to me like a male version of Ally Sheedy in the back photo. Where’s she when ya need her? As well, the back cover delivers a message apparently crafted by this Buddo character, a strange invitation written in inflated nether-wisdom asking ‘The Mighty in Spirit!’ to view the world through their eyes, more or less, and actually blossoms a mid-sized hope for some better-than-suck lyrics. Then before I even realized the "BBo/tBBB" song was over and images of Sheedy in her b-day suit were flung from my head, suck had run like a scolded puppy hit across the nose with the rolled-up Sears catalog, a catalog that is “Concrete Slaughterdogs”, an ornery tune with ornery lyrics graced with a name that’d be friggin’ glorious for any band, song, album, pub, pet, street, ballet, comet, fantasy baseball team, or children’s amusement park. It hasn’t left my side since.

Until then I wasn’t sure if these dudes could do heavy or catchy. Here both are done well. Buddo, as much as I wanted to pass him and his archer pose off as an eccentric product of who cares?, wouldn’t be ignored without a fight. One I easily lost. Like the title’s hardened canine, his bark is confrontational bordering on fearless and his lyrical commands spit a fire that’s diluted by little finesse in style or training…

“Get out of my way, I’m busting up, I want it all!
Don’t give a shit who’s in my way
I’ll kill for blood to win this game
Get out, get out of my way”

Around him, explosive(ly-played) rhythms growl, aggressively baring teeth that’re unexpectedly unclean and smelly, only to burst, showering surrounding tracks with the foamy red juice of Buerstatte (R.I.P. - drums, also of White Zombie), Bakken (guitar), Schluter (guitar), and Winger (bass – not Kip), a rhythm section that almost effortlessly pries a knack for abnormal structuring and lotsa tight, chunky chops outta this thing’s walls and drops them from a balcony of pretty surprising virtuosity that, despite being trapped inside the lp’s unkempt moat which secures it at underground level, still rises to the surface of the production’s brackish water.

Here’s where I figure, should the rest of the lp possess half the authority that just careened off my frontal lobe, I’ll have to send them a thank you rose or something. My answer is “Slicing Steel”, which hauls its slow-burn intensity and brooding disposition like a drag anchor across several dingy environments, a strategy that offsets the previous songs’ rapid bombardment. “Saraboyscage” rips a page from “Slicing Steel” and with it builds something structured with clandestine, blues-esque anciness.

While the tune closest to masterpiece level is “Concrete Slaughterdogs”, practically every song owns one, sometimes two specific agendas to snag attention, whether it be a main riff, bevy of tennis match solos, or an eruption of heaviness that wakes a subtle village of musicality slumbering at its base (hear: the end of “Thee Abyss”, the album’s elongatedly-epic finale and divorce court for cheerless light vs. dark matrimony). For instance, the foundation rhythm interspersed throughout “Terse” continually lures you back with its menacingly half-steppin’, yet quick gait. Even “Blood Brothers of the Big Black Bear”, an autobiographical account of times at The Black Bear, a basement bar hangout of the Madison, WI metal scene during the late ‘80s & early ‘90s, ironically the song I like least, roils with inspired solo work.

Funny enough, what I assumed was gonna be ten windbags trying to sell the world third rate Zappa insight while funking things up on the dance floor turned out to be a strapping heavy bag full of bleakly colorful and poetically logical, um…I dunno, not really philosophy…more like observations seen through low-dose acid goggles or something, which is the opposite of their author’s vocal vision of unapologetic angst and an authoritarian aptitude for disparity, a non-style where every heated word seems to hiss with honesty and can’t reside anywhere except in yer grill.

Alas, Last Crack fail(ed) to fill the void of any metal style, probably ‘cos they don’t (i.e. can’t) technically claim citizenship in any, yet it’s too heavy for hard rock, fence-sits on prog’s property line, and I won’t bring myself to curse it alterna-grunge just ‘cos it doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else. Hell, I can’t even locate the funk monogram in their album title (and for that I rejoice). But is this really failure, this lack of classification? Not a chance.

Thought these guys were destined for bigger things, like a pair of socks and a space heater for Buddo, yet nothing even remotely cult status about ‘em has ever rung my ears.

Fun fact 89dl”: Apparently, the Sinister Funkhouse was a storage unit used for practice sessions, bin #17, and Buddo would scrawl proposed lyrics all over the walls with markers. Betcha the owner of that place loved him.

“…I’ve had it up to here with the sick and meek, I can’t stay so simple and weak, we will be – powerful – no pity…”