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Solar Anus - Skull Alcoholic: The Complete Solar Anus

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Artist: Solar Anus

Album: Skull Alcoholic: The Complete Solar Anus

Label: Tumult

Review date: Dec. 4, 2006

The extreme ends of American and Japanese culture have circled each other like dogs in a cage match for decades now. Too much alike to truly get along, both observe from a healthy distance and copy the mannerisms of the other. Americans take in the paranoid gore of classic Japanese horror and attempt to remake it in the mold of a good olí virgin sacrifice narrative; Japanese hear the sleazy boogie rock of 1970s Britain and the sludgy doom of 1990s America and, well, in the case of Solar Anus, they find a way to make it even sleazier, even more cultic, and even more self-indulgent.

Such dangerous essentialism aside, we have a serious bastardization of classic rock on our hands in Solar Anusí two-disc retrospective Skull Alcoholic. Start, since you are undoubtedly expected to, with the album art. The cover and booklet are filled with epilepsy-inducing collages that bring to mind Black Dice informed by, say, Monster Magnet. A flock of winged skulls descends upon yet more skulls; a flock of lips and mouths descends upon a field of splayed female legs, etc.

A feeling that I canít help but come away with after to listening to a record like Skull Alcoholic is that the music was conceived and performed as a joke, or at least as a set of encoded references meant to be understood by a mere few. The band copiously thanks a list of groups that appear to offer a shorthand for their sound: Electric Wizard, Budgie, Guru Guru, Sleep, Led Zeppelin, etc etc. Most of the tracks on the compilationís first disc, accounting for the bandís 1997 debut and unreleased songs, bear this suspicion out. Song after song of plodding, overdriven sludge riffs that sound as if recorded in an empty gymnasium, accompanied by growled Rob Zombie vocals.

Itís not until the second disc, compiling the bandís later output, that I am convinced of the necessity of a sludge band listening to Ash Ra Tempel and making a record. The songs here are pulsing, playful, and truly epic. On ďDie in the Space,Ē chugging riffs give way to a steadily building tribal drumbeat cribbed in full from Crash Worship (another band thanked once or twice) that explodes in a frenzy of fingertapping and wild soloing. The rhythm section has vastly improved on this half of the record, churning with a rote precision that recalls that of another willful genre-hopping band, Finlandís Circle. On these songs, vocalist Tenkotu has traded in the guttural yowling for a low-in-the-mix carnival yap, which is little improvement aside from being less of a distraction from all the killer riffage.

Though a muddy, extremely excessive amalgam of rock signifiers, Solar Anus is a band that clearly understood one thing about rock and roll: itís a hedonistic affair. They may not ever replace any of the bands in the canon they claim to hold so sacred, but its obvious they had great fun at whatever it was they did. Listening to it is just about as fun, when you get down to it.

By Evan Woodward

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