Music Reviews

COUNTRY TEASERS : “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” CD

(Originally posted on my Agony Shorthand blog, June 2006)

COUNTRY TEASERS : “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” CD……

Every couple years or so our old friends the COUNTRY TEASERS seem to come around with a new one chock full of jaunty skiffles, nasally rants and weirdo keyboard-based dirges, and every couple years the payoff amounts to about a solid B-, give or take a grade.

Oh, I’ve sort of said otherwise in the past, but the march of time & the wisdom of age has helped me to understand why I’m seeing the glass as half empty this time. To read the hyperbole spilled out on these guys every release, you’d think that these discs were something you’d wanna put on time & again, day in and day out all year, because these guys are such a wildly inventive gas. I don’t know about that; I can honestly say that for all my respect for this act, dragging their discs out of storage for repeat play doesn’t happen a whole hell of a lot. Allow me to explain.

First, let’s establish what’s good about this CD and about the Teasers in general. I’ve always liked the total ramshackle construction of their songs & the fuck-all way lead nihilist Ben Wallers slurs out his words. Everything about the band appears to be so inborn & with nary a thought to what folks think that they’re capable of some real naval-gazing bedroom genius at times. Every record has a couple of doozies. When they’re hitting on all six cylinders, a better FALL-inspired Northern European post-punk aggro country band can’t be found. You’ll find that band on this record’s “Points of View” and closing “Please Ban Music/Gegen Alles”, and it’s a real treat.

My concerns lie on two fronts. Ever since a friend gave me a tape of this at-the-time-unrecorded band around 1992 or so, I’ve quickly tired of Wallers’ insistence on punctuating every record with his giggle-giggle-I’m-so-bad “transgressive words” – “Jew”, “coon”, “Hitler”, “blacks”, “queer” etc. Once you get a politically incorrect
titter out of the listener – and believe me, I will always love a smartly-delivered right hook to the word police – what’s left? It appears that entire songs continue to be built around slipping said words into the lyrics, and that’s about as boring as bean curd.

But that’s not as big a deal as the aforementioned staying power of the music. You folks that talk about the Teasers like they’re consistently awesome and are such brave radical musical iconoclasts, are you seriously cranking this up and playing it for your pals? Because a large chunk of it’s dull dull dull, meandering with no direction forward, backward nor home – just made-up-on-the-point garbage (or highly calculated to sound that way, I don’t know).

I read three reviews of this thing already just this past couple weeks that posit that it’s the
goddamn musical second coming. Midheaven Mailorder, flacking for this thing on their web site, ask the very easily answerable question, “Is there another current group operating at such a high level musically or lyrically?”. Wow, probably not, right? The evidence is overwhelming! Seriously, did you guys even listen to this thing?

I repeat myself – The Country Teasers are a solid B- band all the way around, and this thing comes off the shelves for reevaluation again in 2008 at the earliest.

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