It’s fitting that the first sound emanating from this record is a buzzing chainsaw. It serves as fair warning for a record with a morbid fixation on violent deaths by car crash, suicide — and, yes, chainsaw. As the buzzing fades out, an acoustic guitar strums in and Angry Johnny proceeds to tell the tale of a jilted lover who mistakenly sends a meter man “packin’ to the promised land”. The song is pure white-trash Pogues and was, against my will, stuck in my head for days.
The band hails from Easthampton, Massachusetts, lists Hasil Adkins as their favorite musician, all go by stage names and recorded their album at a meat processing plant. The 15 songs here fare best when they are primarily acoustic, but that could have something to do with the fact that the most electric songs are the ear grating, six-minute version of “Jesus, Please Come On Down”, the fittingly obnoxious “The Creep”, and the nine-minute epic “Drag Racing The Devil”. “Chainsaw Charlie” survives the plug-in and finds a tight groove.
On the whole, Hankenstein is a bit heavy on corny gimmicks, but there are bright spots. Angry is capable of occasional lyrical flash, and I’m guessing the hometown bar is packed on the weekends the Killbilles hold forth. “202″ and “Whiskey” both are first-rate songs, and the character who inhabits “Jawbone” pulls no punches with his cynical world view while describing why he wants to become “the biggest bastard you have ever met.”
If you like bands with a sense of humor and songs about cars and girls that will break your heart every time, you’ll like Johnny.
By M.P. Brannan