Friday, September 01, 2006

Rhythm Pigs: Self-titled (1986)

The Rhythm Pigs were a trio that came to San Francisco in the mid-80's by way of El Paso and were signed to as one of the three bands on the Mordam Record distributors house label.

As a follow-up to their 1984 hardcore 7" (An American Activity, Unclean Records, out of print, can be found here via Killed by Death Records), this exceeded my expectations, taking the band into a wholly different, perhaps several different directions at one time and showed increasing prowess on their instruments. Although the band never really developed their own sound or deep following -- always an opener never a headliner, I guess -- they left behind more than a fair number of great songs.

And the fun of this album and the follow-up (Choke On This) is playing guess the genre-mash and influences. Elements of Psyche, Gospel, Country, Krautrock, classic rock, southern rock, SST/NYC/NJ/SF/LA HC-punk, Midwest punk, Dischord (Faith, Minor Threat) are all present and I probably missed about a dozen. Most of the songs depicted a detached yet despairing empathy for the downtrodden (working class, poor, Poland) and an outsider's view of city/punk/American life.

Of side one, three cuts, all in succession, rise above the rest - "Break New Ground" which pays quick homage to the midwest punks - 'Mats, Du with an chiming, sustained effect guitar and on-the-edge vocals. "Human Drama" has a swingy hook in the chorus and a bluesy chorus and guitar that finishes up with some gospel(!) flourishes and lyrics -- "Hey Moses we need you now / split the water and drown the enemy" - they later took this easy-going melodic approach with one of their bigger songs "Censorshit" (Choke on This). "Six" sounds like it was written for Henry Rollins (Black Flag-era Henry) to sing except with a psych-ish chorus.

There's also a mid-fast tempo version of the theme of Charley Brown ("Peanuts") on this side which I guess is a nod toward A.O.D. and some other bands who adopted TV themes into their sets. The closer on this side is white boy hard funk ("Break Or I'll Break Your Face") and features some great guitar/bass/drums riffage perhaps inspired by their label-mates Faith No More. It's good, but sounds a little stiff and hurried at times.

I love the opener of side 2, "Taxi Cab" as it crosses bug-eyed HC vocals in the verse with a Meat Puppets-style soulful chorus - gnarly. The lyrics-challenged "Searching For Myself" is another notable cut featuring overlaid crescendo vocals over sustained guitar and a skanky drum-bass riff into a frenzied chorus. "Conscience Song" mixes, perhaps the first time, punk with Skynrd-style southern rock for a blistering verse and a hilarious country chorus: "You're such a stupid son of a bitch". "Electric World" begins with a pretty mediocre opening standard HC bleater but then turns into an extended non-embarrassing tribute to Jimi Hendrix Experience that might have been nice all on its own. The band later did a straight, and also not too embarrassing, cover of Hendrix's "Fire" on the follow-up to this record.

"Human Drama"
"Conscience Song"

Band Lineup:

Ed Ivey - Bass, Lead vocals, Violin
Greg Adams - Guitar, backing vox
Jay Smith - Drums, congas

Ed Ivey's website
This album and Choke On This were reissued on single CD (Froogle link / CD Baby)
Afterbirth of Cool has two later cuts from the Pigs still up
Dressed for the H-Bomb also posted and writes about the American Activity 7" here
Myspace (Fan page) streams "Break Or I'll Break Your Face"


Anonymous said...

Funny coincidence, because I just picked up both albums on CD today. Your description's fairly accurate. Melodic HC with an indie feel to it, although the sound's terrible on the S/T album.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see a write-up on this under-rated band. The track "Big Brother" on "Choke On This" is a KILLER of immense proportions.

- Dave Lang

Spin said...

Damn! You beat me to it! We're even now, I guess, after that whole Reality Bath thing. Rhythm Pigs is a great album, even better than the follow-up, and your description is spot-on. By the way, they headlined in Toronto all the time. For a variety of reasons, they had a big following here.

Chris Oliver said...

Great band--saw 'em live opening for The Dead Boys in '87!

sid bators said...

"Although the band never really developed their own sound"

couldn't disagree more...sun baked, lack of barre chords, jazz timings...that's a signature sound. you wouldn't hold not sticking to one style against the big boys would you?
great live...slept on my floor and were nice to my folks!

Jim H said...

Sid, thanks but that distinctive sound doesn't come across on their studio recordings - perhaps it was more apparent live.

icastico said...

An old band of mine, Cattle Mutilators, opened up for these guys in Las Cruces New Mexico in 1985. Saw them many, many times. It is absolutely true that the studio albums don't do them justice. They consistently blew away the headliner at the shows.

More Punk from the region: