Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Turbonegro- Apocalypse Dudes (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1999)

There are exactly ten opinions that are so universal and indisputable that they can officially be considered facts. They are:
1. More cushion is most definitely better for the pushin’.
2. Mike Ditka is God.
3. Dick York was the better Darrin.
4. O.J. did it.
5. Virginia is for lovers
6. Cheerleading is not a sport.
7. If you want to be the man, you have to beat the man.
8. Kmart sucks.
9. Burger King should never have changed its fries.
10. Apocalypse Dudes by Turbonegro is the greatest album of all-time.

While the first nine items require no elaboration, it is necessary to categorize the two types of individuals who might dispute #10.

First, there are those who’ve never had the pleasure of hearing Apocalypse Dudes. These people are merely unfortunate, not personally flawed. They may be partially at fault for ignoring the recommendations of others or failing to investigate any music outside of the ten songs in the current Top 40. But in most cases, they can be saved. They can go out and buy Apocalypse Dudes, discover its joys, and go on to live a happy and fulfilling life. In some rare cases, an intervention is required and a friend or family member will have to buy the album for them, and perhaps even physically force them to listen to it. Even when that happens, the results are generally positive.

Far more doomed is the second category of unbelievers: those who know well of Apocalypse Dudes but nonetheless dispute its preeminent place in the annals of recorded music. Some of these people have suffered significant head injuries at some point in life; others were subjected to soul-scarring traumas such as extended encounters with circus clowns or Hoarders marathons on A & E. And then there are those who lack either a sense of humor or good taste in music, both of which are prerequisites for the proper appreciation of any Turbonegro album. The non-fan of Turbonegro is generally a sorry sort - the kind of person who scares children, regularly uses the word “cunt”, and masturbates to pictures of Ann Coulter. In many cases, he’s beyond helping. The only hope for this individual lies in a rigorous program of therapy, diet, hair care, excessive drinking, sword fighting, heavy weightlifting in the company of homosexuals, and multiple long weekends spent listening to the Dictators, Ramones, Alice Cooper, the Stooges, and KISS.

What can we say about Apocalypse Dudes but that it rocks like no album has ever rocked? Somehow no band prior had managed to combine the distinct ingredients of first wave punk, glam metal, and 1970s guitar hero hard rock – or if it had been done, it had never been done so awesomely! Imagine if Spinal Tap had listened to punk rock, received from the rock gods the talent for immortal songwriting, and taken their guitar wanking to an even higher level. Then they would have sounded like Turbonegro! Yet for all of its over-the-top flair, absurdist humor, and homoerotic posturing, Apocalypse Dudes is not a joke album. This band – Oslo, Norway’s greatest contribution to world culture – was more than just a gag. Behind the schtick were absolutely incredible songs full of melody and hooks. From the epic prog metal send-up “Age of Pamparius” through the thunderous anthem “Rock Against Ass” to the not-so-subtle “Good Head”, the material is as impressive as anything ever heard on a hard rock album. Laugh all you want at a song title like “Rendezvous with Anus”, but can you argue that it’s not a perfect rock song?

Rather than a parody of cock rock’s worst excesses, Apocalypse Dudes was an improvement on the form – what you would get from taking the silliest music known to man and somehow making it awesome. From open to close, this album aspires to nothing besides rocking to the maximum, and that it does. Everything is big: big hooks, big production, big guitars, big drums, big vocals. Euroboy, with his perfect fusion of the technical skills of Van Halen/Malmsteen and the soul of Johnny Thunders, may be our generation’s greatest guitar hero. On vocals, Hank Von Helvete is like Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, and Rob Halford all rolled into one. It’s amusing, maybe even gimmicky, that the group’s dressed in sailor hats and matching denim, that they have really awesome mustaches and would like you to believe that they spend their spare time trawling for hot men to fuck. But take away all of that, and you still have the greatest album of all-time.

So of course, once you’ve recorded the greatest album of all-time, are you not doomed to spend the rest of your career disappointing your fans? Yes and no. Granted: Turbonegro will NEVER make a greater album than Apocalypse Dudes. The circumstances that led to the conception and recording of this masterpiece were once-in-a-lifetime type stuff, a rare convergence of pure talent with divine intervention and a determined vision to do something that had never been done before. That said, there is no such thing as a bad Turbonegro album. You can lay down $20 for a copy of Party Animals or Scandinavian Leather and know that you'll get your money's worth for sure.

But for a copy of Apocalypse Dudes, you could not be blamed for selling your soul.

-Josh Rutledge

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