Jeff Smith of The Hickoids sent me their new CD ‘Kicking It With The Twits’ the other day and this thing kicks so much ass I just had to tell you.
First a little history lesson. You can get the whole sordid tale on their website but I’ll give you the brass tacks. The Hickoids came out of Austin, TX in the late ’80s and took the raw, blasted sound of punk and kicked it hard with cowboy boot. Or, come to think of it maybe it was the other way around. Regardless, they have long been considered one of the bands that defined cowpunk. They caught the attention of some folks you may have heard of like Thurston Moore from a little band called Sonic Youth, and Peter Buck from, er what were they called again? Legend has it that Nine Inch Nails opened for The Hickoids on their first tour. That’s some crazy ass gene splicing there.
Their shows were always memorable and insane and after a legendary booze and dope and everything else fueled run they skidded to a stop somewhere around ’92. They did a number one off reunion shows later in the ’90s – which is when I actually saw them – and eventually the 21 century wandered along, things started to coagulate again and when the scab finally fell off there was a shiny new patch of Hickoid skin seeing the light of day. Last year they did a 5 song EP called ‘The Hairy Chafin’ Ape Suit’ as a run up to a highly anticipated full length, but in the interim they decided to drop the 8 song mini-record ‘Kicking It With The Twits’ on our heads.
And that’s what we’re here for now. This is their shout out to all the kick ass britrock that they grew up on, and I can tell you first hand that they’ve soaked these gems with all the blood, spit and swagger you would expect – but somewhere along the way the boys have picked up a hell of a spit-shine.
The first thing that struck me about this record is the selection of songs. It’s about as righteous as a birthday cake for the queen mother in the shape of Guy Fawkes. At the beginning of every song I literally cried out “Oh shit! I love that!” Next is that their blending of rock and twang is so nicely crafted that it almost feels sneaky. It’s not like you can just go “oh these are just country versions of rock songs” because the Rock part is totally intact. You’ve got twang and steel intertwined with spattering guitar and nasty, distorted vocals. Curveballs on acid.
It’s a great mixture of tunes you recognize right off and those that you have to think about a minute or even bust out your wikipedia to recall who did the original version. It’s that latter quality that keeps ‘Twits’ from feeling like a bunch of covers. It’s very much an album. It’s funny to me that nowadays we call 8 or 9 songs a “mini-CD” when back when these songs came out that was considered a full record. I just can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can crank it up in the car and drive around with the windows down. Seriously, it’s that kind of record.
I was actually about to give you a run down of the track list but I stopped myself because, truly, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. [EDIT] I decided not delving into the track list was a dumb idea. But, I didn’t give it all away. Here you go!
- Pictures of Lilly – My favorite parts of this cut are the harmonica interludes. It’s got a pleasingly ‘porchy’ flavor – especially if your porch is tastefully appointed with a homemade still and a box of your old man’s ‘collectable’ playboys.
- Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow – One of my favorite fucking Stones songs, and a rollicking, jaunty version of it! This is probably the straightest sounding cover on the record simply because the Stones themselves had a penchant for countrifying their blues. That said, it’s a truly bitchen romp!
- Brontosaurus – With a side of heavy growl and more of that juicy harp! I love the full on splatter of the distorted vocals. Big and heavy – but more like an ocean liner than a sledgehammer.
- Gudbuy T’ Jane – I recently went through a bit of a Slade binge and came out the other side with two all time favorites, Jane and Bangin’ Man. I dig the extra dose of boot stomp feeling in this Hickoid version.
- Bennie & The Jets – It’s the slide guitar and the psychedelic soloish line that make this one stand out. Real tasty grease, grime up in there. Nice!
- Whizz Kid – I can’t even remember the last time I heard this song, and I’m quite pleased with the way the Hickoids have put it back into my head. They pull it off with such aplomb that it sounds autobiographical.
- Needles In The Camel’s Eye – This is a song I had heard maybe twice a long, long fucking time ago but I never knew who it was. The answer to that question almost doesn’t matter because the Hickoids grab it by the feet, haul it off to the chop house, and bring back a hot, sweaty stew that has you fanning your flushed face and Flaming Lips.
- Neet Neet Neet – A perfect capper, and stone cold classic Hickoids treatment. Dangerous slide guitar, echoey, air-raid vocals, mania… hipsters can’t even handle this kind of shit for more than a minute or so before passing out from the sonic Doc’ Martin ass kicking.
Take my word that these real Hickoid mutherfuckers have thrown down a solid bronze rock gauntlet with perfectly placed spur dents in it, and just go get the damn thing already. In addition to the CD, there are a limited number in red vinyl. Race ya for em!
[FTC disclosure: The Feds demand that I inform you that I received a copy of the CD for free. I wasn't asked, nor did I promise to write a review. I wrote the review purely because I think it kicks ass, and I don't bother reviewing anything that sucks anyway. I'm also not getting any commission from sales. My compensation comes in the form of the glowing feeling I get inside from the satisfaction of spreading the word about this cool record.]