“I’m really sick of tryin’, but I’m tryin’ anyway”
This is not about Buckcherry’s Time Bomb album, although it sort of is. It’d probably be helpful to remember what American culture was like when Time Bomb was released, in 2001. It was in the toilet, basically. On the radio, nu-metal and rap-rock were all the rage. On the streets, fashion took a wild-turn for the highly sexualized, spear-headed by the thong/ass-cleavage craze. Porn stars like Tera Patrick and Jenna Jameson were mainstream celebrities. George Bush was the president and he was a wildly destructive, total fucking idiot. Sharks were eating people left and right. And this was all before 9⁄11. One thing was for sure: we were not ok.
So it was in that toxic stew of bad-times that Buckcherry unfurled their second album, a ridiculous, highly incendiary collection of sleaze pop metal jams so overtly provocative that you couldn’t help but to wonder what the hell was wrong with those dudes. In that respect, Time Bomb serves a pitch-perfect satire of the times.
I mean, it’s all there, the unprincipled cruelty of Bush-era vulture capitalism (“Can’t stop now I got bitches and money”), the desensitising obsession with pornography (“Don’t you know we fuck for money, I’m a big dick motherfucking porno star”), the obliteration of a happy home life in the face of economic ruin (“Somebody save me from domestic suicide”), and the requisite fear, paranoia, and dread associated with living in a country run by villainous lunatics (“I don’t want to live my life today, I’m all out of love and I’m tired of changing”).
That’s not to say any of this was an intentional satire. It probably wasn’t. You don’t write a song like Whiskey In the Morning (“Can’t stop drinking/Gonna die”) as a goof. But that’s how it works now, as a cartoony, funhouse mirror Polaroid of a strange, ugly time. And it wasn’t just Buckcherry, it was all of us. I wrote a review of Time Bomb in my local weekly paper back then, and I said it was “Better than teenage pussy”. First of all, it’s not. Secondly, what kind of over-compensating creep would even write a line like that? But it wasn’t me, man. It was 2001. It was the goddamn thongs and Limp Bizkit.
Which brings us, neatly, to Horrorglittertransvestobilly. Things weren’t great in the US in 1987, either. The stock market crashed, the economy was in tatters, spree-killing was becoming a trend, nuclear fear was a national pastime, and we were limping into our eighth year of another villainous lunatic in the white house, only this one was suffering from Alzheimers on top of everything else. Here’s the thing: people seem to remember the 1980s through the lens of John Hughes movies, or with Whitesnake on the radio. That’s not what they were like. It was a brutal decade. Hardcore punk was the truth about the 80s. Flash metal was a just a lie we told ourselves to help us get through it. And nobody was better at propagating that filthy, filthy lie than Flash Cooney.
It’s kind of endearing how many New York hard rock/metal bands of the 80s were comprised of street goons with long hair. Right? The Rods, Manowar, Carnivore, a bunch of fish-mongers and cab drivers with guitars. It was great. These guys were like that too. Flash Cooney and the Deans of Discipline were one of the original ‘77 era NYC punk bands. The early version of the band consisted of three brothers, the Benepes, plus whoever they could round up for a Saturday night gig at CBGB’s.
By the time they finally got around to making a record, guitarist Flash Cooney (Andrew Benepe) was the last brother left in the band, and their sound had developed from straight-ahead junk-punk to a dayglo stew of flash metal, rockabilly, B-movie weirdness, and glam-punk, which pretty much explains the title of their ’87 album, Horrorglittertransvestobilly. The Deans were all of those things at once, and they were also the wildest show in town, with Plasmatics-style pyro, including a drumset equipped with flame jets and exploding Marshall stacks. There were half-naked back-up singers, there was spandex, there was mascara. It was dead-perfect satire of the Sunset Strip glam-metal psycho-circus. Or was it? I mean, can you take a line like “Every girl I meet tonight is gonna think I’m a faggot ‘cuz my pants are too tight” any other way?
Horrorglitter (as I will know be calling it, because it takes too long to type otherwise) was recorded live at CBGB’s and released on CBGB’s records. It sounds like the New York Dolls wrestling Van Halen on a night that neither band would ever remember. It very clearly captures the spirit of the Deans, their reckless excess, and their willingness to provoke. The jawdropper of the bunch has got to be Future Fox, a tender rock n’ roll anthem about having sex with thirteen-year old girls. Seriously. “There’s only two things between us, and that’s a pair of panties and about twenty years!” Elsewhere, there’s songs about having sex with drunk girls (Cute and Drunk), sex with girls on drugs (Lovers on Drugs), having sex with girls from Brooklyn – possibly drunk, druggy, under-aged ones – (White Trash), and being rushed to the hospital by Lux Interior of the Cramps (Rockabilly Ambulance). There’s also a ramshackle speed-punk cover of the Brady Bunch theme. Why not?
Like Time Bomb, Horrorglitter is a kooky artefact from a bygone era that may or may not have been a purposeful parody of desperate times and a culture on the decline. The only difference is that Buckcherry kept making stupid songs (Ugh, their last EP was all “fuck songs”, man), but Flash Cooney stopped. He knew he couldn’t top Future Fox. Which is probably good, because that shit will get you on a list in this high-surveillance era. Anyway, a forgotten gem from an unsung party-starter who took things so far on his first album he didn’t even have to make a second one. I dunno where Flash is now, but I’m sure he’s alright. Probably driving a cab or monging some fish.
Next: Hanoi Rocks, Saigon Kicks?