For your daily dose of Facts to Make You Feel Old, here’s one that’ll cause a
few more gray hairs to sally forth from your scalp: Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican
Radio” is 23 years old.
Since then, the band’s decidedly recognizable frontman, Stan Ridgway, has
continued to record and release albums, but virtually each one has been unique
from its predecessor, save for his inimitable voice. Leaving the majors behind
in 1991, Ridgway has flirted with any number of styles, up to and including a
collection of big band standards and Broadway show tunes – trust me, you haven’t
lived ‘til you’ve heard him sing “Send In The Clowns” – each quirky, but all
relatively user-friendly when approached with an open mind and a sense of humor.
In 1995, when Ridgway put together a band with Peitra Wexstun (Hecate’s Angels)
and Rick King (Bee Vs. Moth); calling themselves Drywall, it was, oddly enough,
an opportunity for Ridgway to get even more experimental with his material. The
group released an album, Work the Dumb Oracle, then followed it up the
next year with a soundtrack album to a movie that didn’t exist, entitled The
Drywall Incident. Since then, the group’s more or less been on hiatus as
Ridgway’s continued recording his solo material, most of which has been the
audio equivalent of film noir...but, after almost a decade’s absence, the trio
has returned with Barbeque Babylon.
With song titles such as “The AARP Is After Me” and “Wargasm 2005,” it’s evident
from the get-go that a certain percentage of the album is an opportunity for
Ridgway and company to go hog wild with weirdness. “Buried the Pope,” which
features backwards psychedelic guitar, is decidedly ironic, since it was almost
certainly written before John Paul’s passing. Admittedly, some of the tracks,
like “Somewhere in the Dark” and “In Total Focus” sound like they could’ve
popped straight off Stan’s last album, 2004’s Snakebite, but songs like
“Fortune Cookies” and “That Big Weird Thing” are decidedly experimental numbers.
The untitled hidden track, however, is going to be a big selling point for all
of Drywall’s Democratic fans, as it puts together a series of sound bites from
President Bush in an almost seamless fashion to have him declare, “The American
flag stands for corporate scandals, recession, stock market declines, blackmail,
burning with tire irons, multilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues,
terror, mass murder, and rape.” Yikes.
Barbeque Babylon is loveably eccentric; it’s a tough listen at times for
those who prefer their music to be instantly accessible, but it’s undeniably
fun, despite the goofiness. Those who enjoyed Wall of Voodoo’s Call of the
West but haven’t investigated anything Ridgway’s done since – and, c’mon,
that’s most folks – might want to take a listen to the samples of the album that
are available at CDBaby.com. At the very least, “Goin’ On Down To The BBQ”
should lead off any mix disc you make this summer.
"Tammy got a knife with a razor blade
She brought her baby with a burnt teddy bear
Lost her finger on a midnight swinger
Cook it up and like it medium rare
Comin’ on down to the BBQ tonight
God love Stan Ridgway. There’s just nobody like him. Then again, perhaps that’s
for the best.
Everybody gonna burn it up there
Chunky lit a torch too close to the porch
Runnin’ round with a fire in his hair"