One Part Jello, One Part King Snake -- Mix in Bathtub
Tumor Circus - Alternative Tentacles 1991.
Now I admit that this is just my personal musical
tastes creeping through, but really - what other frame of reference do I have?
Am I supposed to listen to all those other Dead Kennedys fans who write this
off as a "questionable Jello one-shot"? Hell no! Because this isn't an
album for Dead Kennedys fans. This is an album for all them folks who, like me,
became enamored with the idea of "grunge" music before Nevermind and
Pearl Jam came along and ruined the whole concept.
See, Tumor Circus was a
collaboration between former DKs vocalist Jello Biafra, King Snake Roost noise
guitarist Charles Tolnay, and San Francisco one-trick pony grungesters Steel
Pole Bathtub. And let you tell me something - played at top volume, not only
does this mess of wiry frazzle gash burn the bridges off all past Steel Pole
B product (which, though at times catchy, is nevertheless mostly very
plodding and predictable) and tear the trunk lock off of the annoyingly tuneless
catalog of Australian superstars King Snake R (aside from Ground In The
Dirt, a really, really good noise CD you should pick up if you get the
chance), but it dang near comes close to
kicking the kneecaps off of the original Kennedys albums!!!!
Yes, it's hard to
follow - I'll admit that. This is because the Steel Pole guys, noisy enough on their own, are darn near
indiscernible when joined by King Snake Charlie, who does nothing but
play sickly dissonant and jarring whangy bar bends all the damn time. And then
you got dang JELLO up there with his crazy-ass vibrato smookin' the mikepipe
with all this paranoid crap about George Bush masturbating for his Yale
fraternity brothers, women who screw ya over cuz they's all bitches, and assorted
and sundry crud like 'at.
But seriously - there are very few grunge bands out there, past or
present, who could conjure up an unholy racket like the one you'll hear on this
release. Listen really really close through the din - and you might even hear
some guitarwork!!!! I love it. I'd give it a nine or ten if it wasn't mixed like a
dang shoe. For example, the intro to "The Man With The Corkscrew Eyes" is one
of the freakiest guitar riffs I've ever heard, all twisted and mucked up and
spooky, then the other instruments come in, and you can't hear ANYTHING any more!!!
That's what I mean. I'm all for noise, but when it totally obscures a neat
guitar noise, I get bitter and take some points away.
Beyond that gripe,
these songs are awesome. "Fireball" is an updated version of Frankenchrist's
sinister psycho-rock, "Swine Flu" pounds like The Melvins but in a dancey way,
"Calcutta A-Go-Go" shudders and shimmies like a salted slug, and "Take Me Back
Or I'll Drown Our Dog" has one of the kookiest twisty-wisty guitar lines I've
ever been unable to replicate in my free time. The others are cool, too. Just
buy it, for the love of God. If it's in a store near you, it's undoubtedly gonna be
in the cheapy bin, so look there. And crank it up LOUD in headphones late
at night. Damn ahoy, kick Soundgarden - THIS IS GRUNGE'N'ROLL!!!! Go Jello
Add your thoughts?
- Reader Comments
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Rob Krohn)
I liked Tumor Circus. Lots of tortured guitars. There are some great songs
- tracks 2-6 are really good cranked. Were these songs written only by
Biafra or were they a
collaboration? Most of them seem too complicated for a Jello tune. There's
songwriting credits in the CD (I should have special ordered the vinyl--I
think I got
gyped out of some inserts!). Last track...hmmm. 15 minutes long. The
should have been turned off much earlier. I'd give TC 8/10 mostly
because it *sounds*
completely different than anything else I have! Maybe 2nd best thing Biafra
since DK. Word of caution: it's not the kind of album the media would call
"accessible" - only hardcore fans need apply. But, if you like other
post-DK Biafra stuff, you'll probably like this one too.
I purchased Tumor Circus a few months ago and have listened to it many
times. I bought it because i'm a jello fan. But it's awesome... I don't
like the sixteen minute song at the end about turning off the
respirator. But that's about the only song I dislike. Definitely a need
for better production in this album... but it's still damn good, I have
to admit. Quite different, and it seems to work with Jello's distinct
- email@example.com (Jon Bloom)
I bought Tumor Circus several years ago. I listened to it twice before
banishing it to the back of my tape case. Is the music good? I don't
know and never can know because the recording quality and the production
quality suck major ass. That can kill an album. I love grunge like the
next guy (if the next guy happens to be George Bush Jr...actually I
really do love pre-nirvana grunge), but I cannot enjoy this album. I
prefer the Jello Biafra / Nomeansno collaboration.
- Mdcgeek@aol.com (MDCgeek Jake)
I thought Tumor Circus was pretty bad. I bought it a while back, and I'm not
even sure if i could listen to it all the way through. Now, I'm a pretty big
Jello fan.. I liked Dead Kennedys and his solo stuff.. but Tumor Circus was
all but almost unlistenable. I love "Headlines" and his lyrics are great..
but I just don't think it's one of his best efforts. Many of my friends who
are also Jello fans share this sentiment. It's just not his thing.. the
whole "rock" thing.. if you want GOOD Jello projects, check out Lard. They
are one of the best team-ups around right now, Jello with Al Jourgensen and
crew. But keep Tumor Circus in your closet. Sorry. I think I'd give the
album 5/10 at the most.
- firstname.lastname@example.org (sid vicious)
as not only a jello biafra "fan" but as a person with, well, ears.. i
must say that if you dont absolutley love anything that has come out of that
man's mouth than you have a seriously duped mind and some potential
problems. hmm.. oh, and i have a rather important question... does anybody know the
outcome of the klaus flouride/ east bay ray vs. jello biafra and alternative
tentacles case? has it been postponed again?? it was supposedly to be
held 2 days ago, on april 17th but i havent heard anything on it since it was
postponed originally. oh and by the way.. i absolutely adore tumor circus regardless of the
sound quality/ distortion/ whatever the hell else you call it and blah blah
blah ill shut up now. =þ
- Moe Aboulkheir
Tumor Circus should get a "9", it has nice ambience.
Purchase your very own Tumor Circus here. But HURRY UP!!! It's about to go out of print 4-ever!!!
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