ALL-TIME BLASTER: "JIMI"
|Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman||Feb 22, 2020|
I’ve listened to “Jimi” and the rest of Hairway to Steven by the Butthole Surfers at least 100 times, and I’ve loved every minute of it, every single time, but right now I’m listening to “Jimi” for at least the 101st time (thank you Spotify playlist I made 20 months ago and am just now actually playing), this one on headphones, and it’s really speaking to me in a few new ways. To wit:
That classic industrial monolithic inverted-“We Will Rock You” double-drum groove, and what the hell is even going on with the bass-and-guitar interplay? Those heavy distorted molasses-slow Melvins-worthy bass lines, and of course anything Paul Leary does on guitar. I think he’s incredibly underrated as a guitar stylist (that lardacious tone, that absurdly wide and fast vibrato), the way he succeeded in making rock guitar sound different than it ever had before, but I think it’s because he made it sound so different. No one — myself included, until maybe right now — quite processes it as rock guitar. They just hear it as “Butthole Surfers.” Which is awesome.
a. I’m also wondering, regarding Paul Leary... I know plenty of his guitar style was from his fingers, and whatever singular effects chain he devised, but how much of it, if any, was tape-speed manipulation? I mean they messed around with speed-manipulation all the time, why wouldn’t they do it on Leary’s guitar?
b. You think maybe Leary’s playing bass on here too? Like in the studio? Regardless of who the current touring bassist was at the time? Wikipedia page says Jeff Pinkus for this album, who of course is a long-time member, but as far as I know the album has never listed instrument credits. I mean, I want it to be Pinkus, because if it is, he's something of a 1980s post-punk visionary on his instrument as well.
Speaking of tape-speed manipulation, I’m hearing Gibby Haynes ranting away at half-speed and thinking for the first time about a Butthole Surfers/DJ Screw connection, no actual reciprocal influence in either direction, just an overall drug-influenced slow-moving South Texas underground thing. Admittedly, it’s not impossible and fun to imagine that DJ Screw heard early-mid Buttholes and was inspired by the tape-speed madness of Locust and Hairway.
a. And speaking of Gibby ranting away, I am realizing two things. One, the chorus to “Jimi” is just him going “Wow….. wow…. wow…. wow” multiple times. Two is that I love the lyrics, which are downright biblical in their epic visionary scope of turmoil and conflict. “I have come ten million miles/And traveled on your Earth/And with his hands the fiery beast/may consummate my birth/Locust, flies, disgusting beasts/Shall crack the ocean floor/Has given life to fiery hands/That open up the door!” And then later when he goes beyond the Lizard King and into sheer Jack Kirby cosmic supervillian territory: “What do you know about reality? I AM REALITY. What do you know about death? I AM DEATH! HAAAAAAHH!!!!!!” b. Also, I know that DJ Screw is from Houston, and Butthole Surfers are essentially a San Antonio band (because both Gibby and Paul are from San Antonio), but those cities are less than 200 miles apart, and along the same latitude. That's why I say it's a South Texas thing.
I haven’t gotten to the second half of the song yet. The monstrous first half runs for about seven minutes before devolving into total chaos, which violently winds down from the full band into the terrible sound of a lone malfunctioning synthesizer, which turns out to be a bridge, or is it a doorway? If it is a doorway, are we to leave and escape the demon? Or is the demon now humbled, by someone more powerful, and in fact more peaceful, coming to visit? There is the sound of a chime clock. The noise-spitting of the synthesizer finally stops. There’s one last appearance by the demon, responding to the visitor with a contrite “You rang?” The chime clock is actually a cosmic doorbell, and then we’re not in a room at all, but a vast Dali landscape (you can’t see the clocks melting, but you can sure hear them) filled by the windswept theme for an imaginary acid spaghetti western, driven by absurdly clean electric guitar (or a treated acoustic), more superb bass playing, wide-open drumming, and an array of barnyard/nature/sound effects that put the whole thing in a rarefied post-Stockhausen dreamscape.