Over the last couple of years, we've heard it said more than once that rock & roll is "back," having been unceremoniously booted out of the Billboard Hot 100 by sanitized rap and star-maker-machinery-crafted pop acts. We've seen its supposed revival given a number of faces as it came down the catwalk for its big on-camera moment: the stadium-rock fist-pumping of Kid Rock; the confusing commercial success of Aerosmith's endless artistic demise (you may not believe it, but they were once a pretty great blues-rock band -- for proof, go buy Get Your Wings); the growling romanticization by Korn and their ilk of some rather mundane psychiatric disorders. We have heard perfectly sensible people tell us that these goings-on should somehow hold our interest instead of boring us to tears. And we have sighed bitterly, because neither Kid Rock nor Korn nor any Aerosmith after 1977 is rock & roll. It's just product, and in its bland now-try-this sameness, it's kind of depressing.
The good news, which you already knew, is that rock & roll wasn't ever really gone. It ran away, angry and wounded by our collective failure to come to its defense when it needed us most, but it didn't really leave us. It just found cool places in which to hide. It hid out in Finland and Sweden and Portugal and Canada and various other places under various assumed names -- black metal, stoner rock, hatecore -- and it spent some time, evidently, in New Orleans, which is where Eyehategod, the most misanthropic band you will ever hear in your life, is from. The music they play is exactly the sort of stuff that is, at this very moment, causing a father somewhere in the country to shout, "That's not even music at all -- it's just noise!" while pounding his fist against the closed door of his longhaired teenage boy's bedroom. Its main inspiration is early Black Sabbath, but it's inestimably heavier and darker than that.
Eyehategod's new one, 10 Years of Abuse (and Still Broke), compiles an old practice tape, a 1994 on-air appearance and the entirety of a performance in Germany from April 2000. The sound quality is utterly abysmal throughout; the vocals come through like the roaring of an angry bear -- linguistically incomprehensible, but the gist is easy enough to get. The songs have such titles as "Left to Starve," "Lack of Almost Everything" and "30$ Bag." Guitarist Jimmy Bower rolls out heavy sludge-riffs one after another, with the drums mercilessly following along; sometimes they double their speed, and in those moments they sound like a bluesier incarnation of the Germs. Sometimes they rock in a near-traditional, Blue Cheer-y style, but just as often they seem mainly interested in making an unholy amount of noise. There's a lot of feedback, and the evil sort of feeling that turns good rock bands into great ones suffuses the whole lo-fi affair. The overall vibe is pretty damned frightening and more than a little offensive (vocalist Michael D. Williams is abusive to the German audience and asks them for heroin) and utterly glorious.
Eyehategod is louder than an avalanche and could get you thrown out of high school these days if you played it too loud in your car while driving through the parking lot. The so-called rock & roll that's trying to come "back" should find someplace to hide if Eyehategod stays out of jail long enough to tour this summer. It could get ugly.