Steel Pole Bath Tub

Almost as grungy as Candlebox!
* special introductory paragraph!
* Butterfly Love
* Lurch EP
* Your Choice Live Series
* Tulip
* The Miracle Of Sound In Motion
* Some Cocktail Suggestions
* Scars From Falling Down
* Unlistenable
See, back when I was in high school, right around the time I was discovering that every hardcore band sounded exactly the same, the Georgia Tech radio station started running this show called Tongue Bath, featuring what the DJ referred to as "grunge" music. This would have been 1990, you understand, so I didn't have any historical mainstream precedent to help explain all the crazy noises that permeated from my stereo every Wednesday night when I cranked up Mr. Radio Show Guy. Bands like King Snake Roost, Lubricated Goat, Surgery, Helmet, Tar, Silverfish, Melvins, Cows, Mudhoney, Nirvana, and this fine San Franciscan trio which I am at some point actually going to begin discussing cranked out midtempo pounding screaming noisy distorted rackety messes that just spewed out all over my rug, which at the time was swarming with live fleas, but that's a different matter entirely. (I had a dog; he had fleas; off my fucking back.)

Now then, I wasn't going to take a chance and waste ten bucks on an album by any of these shady young bands, so it's a good darn thing that I got a job at my college radio station the very next year. Suddenly, an entire universe of illegally-recordable music was at my disposal every second of every day! So what could I do but tape all of it and get really bitter four months later when my special word "grunge" began to be used in reference to overproduced power pop like Nevermind and whatever Soundgarden was doing at the time? But I've grown. I've long since realized that any attempt to claim a "band" or "genre" as your own is nothing but a childish defense mechanism. For the love of God, don't take my cool away! See there? "Cool" is "nonsense". There is no cool. Just try not to dress too stupidly (I wore brightly-colored "jams" that my mother made for me until I was like 20. I'd probably still be wearing the friggin' things if my girlfriend hadn't finally confided in me that they made me look like a dumbass. Same with briefs. Don't wear briefs. Only little kids and old men wear briefs.).

So anyway, nobody ever even tried to take my Steel Pole Bath Tub away from me, which is understandable, because they weren't exactly the most creative band of all time. Pretty much a two-trick pony of plodding minor key attacks and shuffly surf-spy note-quibblin', the band filled out their sound with heavy and mostly distorted bass, pointless sound effects, and vocals that alternated between the high-pitched shout of guitarist Mike Morasky and the even higher-pitched weirdo/niceboy squeal of bassist Dale Flattum (who, in person, gives the appearance of a man who couldn't stop smiling even if he really really wanted to). I like it, but there's no real reason you should. Like I said, they stick to a pretty predictable pair of styles. Still, if you want to know what sort of screaming ugly mess gave the term "grunge" its name, you might want to check 'em out. Maybe you'll like 'em, too! Why not? Who gives a rat's ass?

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Butterfly Love - Boner 1989.
Rating = 7

There's a little man in my nose who really wants to give this album a 6, but I'm gonna resist the temptation because, as "generic" as this noise rock is, it still makes me really happy. For one thing, instead of screaming like crazed drunken bullies, these fellows sound like normal guys that might live right downstairs - except for all that friggin' NOISE, of course (unless you have to deal with that problem, too. My neighbors play Blues Traveller every friggin' minute of my life).

Anyway, I'll admit that this isn't the greatest noise record ever made, but it kicks ass if you play it really loud, and besides, even if Steel Pole Bath Tub are a band with few ideas, this was the very first time they shared their limited ideas with us, so that should count for something! Plus, "Time To Die" has a neat surf/spy Venturesy guitar line, "Heaven On Dirt" pounds like a big huge mass of killer bees carrying smallpox, and "Thru The Windshield Of Love" - why, that's a dang pop song! Also, the sound effects do some strange things during the course of this record. The weird sex/death/pig moans at the end of "Welcome Aboard It's Love," for example, are creepier than a bug. Is it the best album ever? No. But it's loud!

Reader Comments
I give this album a solid 9 - it kicks ARSE! I had this glued into my tape deck for at least a month when it came out. Not only are the tunes neat, and the cheesy retro back story is funny, but the drumming is ridiculous! People seem to either lump them into noise or hardcore but this album is more of a weird point in musical evolution, it's got elements of "Fresh Fruit" and "Confusion is Sex" and grunge, but is not really any of those - and it's definitely not generic. I saw them open for the Flaming Lips in Trenton sometime around Sept '89 and they were jumping around so much they were pretty much airborne for most of the show, but the music was still note perfect to the album. Then the Flaming Lips came on and played sitting down in chairs (try to imagine them, still sitting down in chairs, trying to turn around and rub their guitars against their amps for feedback!) and my companions Laura Gothchick McCutchen and D. Larson fell asleep. Back to SPBT, the follow-up record "Lurch" was decent, and I remember they got more interesting again with "Tulip", but "Butterfly Love" was the one that had the most whoopass.

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Lurch EP - Boner 1990.
Rating = 7

Not much in the way of stylistic growth is presented here, but if you like the style, you'll enjoy the songs! "Christina" starts off the proceedings with a queasy six-string bendathon on the part of Mr. Morasky, followed by about five minutes of impenetrable noise without a beat (weird....). Then later there's "Hey You," which plods like "Heaven On Dirt" but with even more of a creepy vendetta than that fine number, leaving the listener with a really sick empty feeling in the pit of his or her stomach. At their best, this band can be pretty darn creepy (depending, of course, on where and when you're listening to the cassette, but I suppose that's obvious). Then "The River," much like every other song entitled "The River" (see Bruce Springsteen and Nomeansno for only two of what must be billions of examples), is catchier than a ham sandwich in June with a catcher's mitt sticking out of a toothpick on the top. The cover of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" is handy-dandy too, but how could anybody screw up a song that phenomenal, I must question?

Good record. Little if any artistic growth, but with music like this, vision isn't an issue. It's supposed to make you scream with a stupid mixture of agony and ecstasy - and it only sounds good if you play it REALLY FARGIN' LOUD!!!!

Reader Comments
i like lurch EP - Boner 1990

in fact, whenever someone asks me what my second favorite steel pole bath tub record is, i say "i like lurch eee pee (PAUSE) boner nineteen ninety"

buy the vinyl if you can because it includes a cool comic book

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Your Choice Live Series - Your Choice 1992.
Rating = 7

They do lots of their best tunes on here (including the non-LP "Arizona Garbage Truck"!), but the sound is really bassy, which sucks a lot of cool "surf guitar" feel out of the music. Plus, they end the CD with 15-20 minutes of feedback noise, which just isn't clever. I don't know why so many bands think that's clever. It's not even annoying at this point in musical history. It's just sophomoric and dull. A waste of time, space, money and marshmallows, if marshmallows were involved.

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Tulip - Boner 1991.
Rating = 7

Same ol'. More sound effects, a few new guitar tones (the shimmery chunky fuzz that starts off "Soul Cannon" is pretty darn keen indeed - too bad it goes away almost instantaneously), but no new tale to tell. Like the two preceding releases, Tulip is split between God-esque noisefests and boring two-chord underarm noises with melodies that don't do ANYTHING. If you like noise and you see it cheap, pick it up. "Wonders Of Dust" and "Myrna Loy" present some much-needed stylistic diversity, and "Pirate 5" is as infectious as anything they've done, but I'll be danged if they don't need to spend a little more time relistening to their old records 'cuz I'll be danged yet again if I haven't already heard most of these songs already.
Reader Comments
tulip is without a doubt STB finest moment, a dimestore crime story come to life ....maybe one of the best albums of the 1990's.
i dig yr reviews aplenty, but i gots ta say...SPBT as two-trick ponies? Tulip not getting 9/10? Miracle... getting a higher rating? Tulip is their masterwork. essential LSD listening...perhaps that's the problem though.

can anyone elaborate on SPBT reuniting? or is this a silly rumour? I'd have to lean towards the HappyCapitalist Tyler's notions that Tulip might just fall into one of the 'finest'/'definitive' releases catgories that exist. i won't expand on the criteria however...
I f*ckin love this album so piss off! (Preston Reyes, a serious serious Steel Pole Bathtub fan)
Tulip is an absolute 10
Side two of that album is one of the greatest musical endeavors ever laid onto vinyl.
I guess you had to be there, but I am going to have side 2 of that album played at my funeral.

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The Miracle Of Sound In Motion - Boner 1993.
Rating = 8

Say! Maybe they took my advice, even though I didn't mention it until April 27, 1997! This album has lots of great riffs! The band sounds full of life and creative verve, and they're tossing out great dark surf/spy guitar licks left and left! Not simply adequate, nor merely competent, but something MORE! Something... catchy, by bill! In fact, being more notey than noisy, TMOFIM is the catchiest collection of tracks that has ever descended from the gates of The Tub!

The only problem with it is that, following a solid 35 minutes of living up to our (basically low, but existent nonetheless) expectations, the Steelers toss off a couple of really weak songs right at the end. Hey, I'm no naturalist, but "594" and "WAXL" are a couple of plants. ? I don't know what it means. I just opened a dictionary and ran across the word "naturalist." Generally, I don't use a dictionary because I'm perfectly capable of making up words on my own, but recently I discovered that the darn thing's got neat words like "hatch" and "protectorate" - I mean, come on.... What would YOU do? You're darn tootin' you'd hop on your dobbin, deal with your sangfroid, and grab that parflin' bitchinary!!!

I've had a headache for about 27 hours in a row. I really like the song "Exhale" for some reason.

Reader Comments
Are you on crack calling Steel Pole one trick Ponies there is more depth in Miracle of Sound in Motion than the grand fuckin canyon,
Funny Steel Pole Bath Tub story (how many times a day do you hear THAT?) -- I just saw the movie "Five Easy Pieces" for the first time recently, and there's a scene when Jack Nicholson is stuck in traffic, and he gets out of his car and says to the truck honking behind him, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." I haven't listened to the Tubs in probably 5 or 6 years, but I INSTANTLY recognized this sample from "Train To Miami". Isn't that nuts? I had basically forgotten this band existed, but was able to place this sample in a second. That's effective sampling!
put down the bong and do the review over this record is 10

I mean how in the holy well can you give any album that opens with a song as glorious as "Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride" anything less? The way it openly fucks your face to it's sludgecore ending is nothing less than TRIUMPHANT. Maybe if it didn't have such kick ass songs like 'Borstal' or 'Train to Miami', but it do.

And to echo the previous thought - SPBT were the best intertwiners of samples (or samplers of intertwining???) in rock hands down. Not once do you hear one on this record that sounds out of place. BONERCORE 4EVA

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Some Cocktail Suggestions EP - Boner 1994.
Rating = 6

The more you learn, the less I care. This is the weakest Steel Pole record - they've brought back the plodding and forgotten to write guitar lines. Steve Albini produced it, but there aren't any of those funny lines like "YOU FUCKING DIE!" or "All I know - is that there were rumors he was into field hockey players" that made the first Pixies full-length such a treasure to behold. But The Pixies had a lot of growing up to do. You can't just get by on one-liners for the rest of your life. Look at Steve Martin, for example. Let's Get Small is one of the funniest albums ever made, but by the time his fourth album rolled around, his schtick had worn thin and he had to substitute 20 minutes of banjo music, which was pretty, mind you, but hardly what you'd expect from a world-renowned comic and, by that point, movie star. Don't see Leap Of Faith. It's terrible. Father Of The Bride Part II is pretty weak too. This record, much like nearly every thought process I've ever had, goes nowhere.
Reader Comments (Mike)
I think you were way too harsh on Some Cocktail Suggestions. :) Almost all of the songs on that EP were bass heavy, much like most of The Miracle... (which is my favorite album by 'em). It (SCS) continued in the same direction as Miracle, and I was hyped. I was hoping their next full release would also be bass heavy, or at least seem to be built around the bass, but.... ah well.

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Scars From Falling Down - Slash/London 1995.
Rating = 7

Back to the grind. Read my reviews for Butterfly Love and Tulip and consider yourself kept abreast of the creative doings of San Francisco's Steel Pole Bath Tub rock and roll combo. The bass line in "The Conversation" swings, plods, and cooks all at once, "Twist" is a hooky little guy with some killer happy vocals, and the rest is certainly a... wait a minute. Isn't London a major label? WHO THE HELL SIGNED THIS BAND TO A MAJOR LABEL??????? Granted, I'd rather hear this stuff on the radio than the work of such talented artists as Alanis Morrissette, but then I'd also rather slice off my ring finger with a pen knife than listen to the work of.... Blah. Just remember me as the stylistic genius who was able to create a Steel Pole Bath Tub review that is every bit as predictable as the band itself. I like 'em, though! And I like me!!! Do you like me? Do you want to hang out? We could go to the mall! I think they have a Spencer's!!!

Reader Comments (Mike)
I just read your email page about Steel Pole Bath Tub. Always nice to find out someone else in the world likes 'em, too. I dunno if they're still around or not. They're overdue for an album, that's for sure. I know they released a song on the Twisted Willie album, and they released a 7" with a couple of Cheap Trick covers on it. I think they're still around, but I haven't gotten a response when I emailed 'em asking "are you guys still around?", so I dunno.
Just letting you, and anyone else who interested, know that STEEL POLE BATH TUB is ALIVE and WELL. The band members have taken an extended vacation (soul searching? hehe) since they left Slash Records. Look for new SPBT material around the Fall of 1998 when they will release material they have been working on during 1996 and 1997...after that they will be working on a BRAND SPANKING NEW ALBUM!!!!! (Charles Wood)
I don't think you REALLY get the point with them. Do you really know what kind of influence they had on SF area bands? I think not. Soooooooo many of todays young bands have taken their sound.
man i cant beleive you think this album is ok. This is what grunge (or what ever should of sounded like). Ok, some of the songs arent 100% amazing, but when you hear songs like 'Club 500' it makes you relisze why you like the band so much. its a shame that they have split up. For me, i rate this album 9. Thanks reading.
Yeah, this is a band you do have to "get". I agree with the person who said they had a profound effect on Bay Area bands. They were soooooooo good live too and that's the thing. I always thought they were like the opposite of Zeppelin, you know? Zep had all these great records and they were like some kind of hideous abomination live. Steel Pole has pretty good records (almost not worth judging in the same manor one would judge a record....?) but had super keen live deals. I saw them a bunch of times. The best was at a warehouse loading dock in a real shitty part of SF. It rained and for the first time (when watching a band play in rain) I thought it would be more entertaining if the band finished out their set than if they all got electrocuted and burnt to full extra crispy. (SPIDER! That's right SPIDER!)
I saw them open up for Faith No More in St Pete, FL (the necks are red in FLA). They played "Surrender" with LP skips improv-ed into it. Those crackers went apeshit. They blew lots of money on that crap London release. But I suppose that's for the memory books. Second, I picked up a vinyl copy of "Miracle..." at a hippie yard sale for $5 from a guy much older than my 32 yo self, who complained of his family forcing him to sell it, asking $10. I felt like a chump, but he was getting drunk and tired. His other big money offers were Rush and The Flamin' Groovies. Poor old salt...

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Unlistenable - 0 To 1 Records 2002.
Rating = 7

Back in 1996, noise/rock/pre-grunge screaming sound effect guitar band Steel Pole Bathtub was, for no clear reason, on major label London Records (one-time home of The Fabulous Rolling Stones!). However, they were about to be dropped. This wasn't due to lack of promotion or any political misstep on anybody's part -- it's just that their major-label debut Scars From Falling Down wasn't any good. Their previous one, The Miracle Of Sound In Motion was VERY good and you'd do yourself a good deed by purchasing it in the morrow!!!! However, Scars From Falling Down was a complete retread of the least interesting aspects of the band's previous albums, and can be found in many, many 50-cent bins across the greatest country in the world - The Republic of Vermont (1777-1791).

So the major record label told Steel Pole Bath Tub, "Hay Asshole. Here's some money - make some demos and come up with a hit single and make us a gajillion dollars and go on MTV's TRL (The Real Lorld) and date Britney Spears, even though it's 1996 and she's a four year old with breast implants." So what did Steel Pole Bath Tub masterminds Darren Mor-X, Mike Morasky and Dale Flattum, who once played in a band called Tumor Circus with the Dead Kennedys' Jello Biafra and King Snake Roost's Charlie Tolnay, do? Well, allow me to answer that rhetorical question with the punchline of that classic old joke, "What does a sabre-toothed tiger have for dinner?" -- WHATEVER HE (they) WANTS! (want)(!).

This music doesn't come anywhere NEAR songs that could come out on a major label. I'm hard pressed to say this stuff sounds like songs that should come out on whatever the hell this "0 to 1" miniscule piece of crap label is!!!! Out of 17 official tracks and 1 "bonus" track that sounds exactly like the first 17, I honestly wouldn't call more than maybe THREE of them "songs that you'd have to be completely out of your goddamned mind to send to a record label for approval." According to the liner notes, the label not only told them they didn't hear a single -- they told them they "couldn't hear ANYTHING." And when you figure these record company execs are honestly trying to provide for their families in between snorting cocaine off of the chests of naked strippers spread-eagled across craps tables (Eddie Money admits that he once was addicted to cocaine, gambling and pornography all at the same time - I like to tease him about it with light-hearted little references like this one. I also like to pee all over that side of his face that's paralyzed.). Because here's what the music sounds like:

Muffled! Half-assed! Very slow! Filled with distorted keyboards, distorted drums and distorted other instruments! Half-instrumental! Three STUPID Cars covers slowed down, played wrong and retitled "What I Need," "The Good Times" and "My Best Friend's A Girl"! Jazz! Bassy intros to songs that never begin! Clamorous ringy beauty! Novelty funk rock! Wall of noise! Cutesy finger-tapping! Ebow like REM made famous! Wind-up Noise and pretty tremeloed guitar! A bunch of unfinished songs that you get the feeling really ARE finished, just not very... written! On the up side, lots of the bits are bouncy good novelty fun and are over so quick, they don't get old. And the odd, dishevelled, underproduced murk certainly conveys an oddball mood.

AH! I've got it! I know what to say! Have you heard that Melvins album Stag, where the genres keep changing and there are lots of little annoying things that they try to pass off as "songs"? Unlistenable sounds like your downstairs neighbor is playing that album on 16 RPM so loudly that his stereos are distorting and all you can hear are the bassiest elements, all fuzzed to hell. With the song titles changed to "Glad Ass," "Jack Aloha," "Teenage Middle Finger," "Black Eye Fixer and many others!

Steel Pole Bath Tub fans of old are most likely homeless junkies on the streets of San Francisco, but if any have made it through A Detoxification Program, they might be disappointed by the lack of anger, screaming and manic drumming intensity of this release. But those who never liked the band in the first place are actually pretty likely to get a kick out of some of this goofiness. At very least, it's the most diverse CD they've ever done! And it does make for a good conversation piece whenever you and your friends are discussing "The Worst Decisions Ever Made In The History Of Rock And Roll."

And my name's Mark Prindle. And you can take THAT back home to Mother!!

That's my new catchphrase. Is it okay or does it sound too faggy? For a while, I was using "And you can take THAT to the post office and mail a letter to Benjamin Franklin!" but everybody kept doing it and I got angry letters from the Mailman Police.

Reader Comments
Hey Prindle, you're wrong.

ha ha.

Unlistenable is quite possibly my favorite album they've ever done, that and Miracle. It's at easy 9 and a possible 10 for me.

I didn't really get it at first, but I have over time. It's an incredible album that really needs time to grow on you.

What really got me is how amazingly 'now' it sounds you know? Proof that they were way ahead of their time.

Your comments on the Cars covers couldn't be more wrong. Although I will agree that the one "good times roll" isn't as good as it could be. Did you know they were going to do a whole album worth of cars covers? How messed up would that be?

Anyway, if you look past the recording fidelity, which is very low... My Best Friend's a Girl and ESPECIALLY Just What I Need, are incredible... taking two upbeat catchy little Cars ditties and turning them into potentiall scary, dark, SPBT plodders, can't go wrong with that. The subtle changing of the lyrics is brilliant too, you go from the questionable morality play of My Best Friend's Girl to My Best Friend's A Girl... how can you beat that?

how can you? I ask!

they have a site too: that's very cool and very... well Steel Pole Bathtub. The guys even hang out on the message board, it's pretty interesting, especially after they practically fell off the face of the internet years ago.

Oh yeah that "miniscule piece of crap label" 0 to 1 is their label, you know as in they put it out themselves with their own money. Just thought you should know, the Milk Cult and Novex albums on that label too are brilliant, you should give them a listen.

And did I mention they are doing a one off live show at Neuroris "Beyond the Pale" festival here in SF next week? I'm looking forward to that.

love ya mean it! (Glen Leatherman)
I must concur with Replicator5k. Unlistenable is fab. Prindle, pull your head out.

Mike Morasky of Steel Pole Bathtub fame
For something with a little better insight and not steeped in post-punk self-aggrandizing cynicism try:
In 1994 Steel Pole bath tub were the previous tenants of a Mission District flat I and few friends moved into.

The neighbors brought us fruit baskets.

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Steel Pole Bathtub CDs galore available at this link galore. Be sure to click on the album covers to reveal much lower used CD prices!

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