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Thursday, November 23, 2017 
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Steel Pole Bath Tub
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Unlistenable
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More proof that all rock critics are hopeless fuckwits: Steve Huey of "All Music Guide" declares that Steel Pole Bath Tub is a "Grungy power trio" and proclaims that "their standard alternative-type rock is frequently broken up by blasts of feedback, and guitar noise seems to be the main focus of the music." To discuss music in such limited terms is just sad (by the way: who the fuck capitalizes the word "grunge"?!) and to pay someone cash money to bleat out such nonsense is a crime that can be seen as nothing less than despicable by those of us who genuinely care about music. To say that Huey's take on this band falls far from the mark would be a gross understatement, one that I am not prepared to make (though a lot of his "standard alternative-type rock, frequently broken up by blasts of feedback" hooey kinda makes it sound like he's talking about Sonic Youth if you squint your eyes just right!).

In reality, no genre could properly hold Steel Pole Bath Tub. Songs are lazily noisy but are oftentimes stuffed with catchy pop hooks as well. The tunes thump and grind like a world-weary stripper who has three children to feed with her tip-money, and the band's music is far more three-dimensional than that of any grunge band Steve Huey could compare them to. Hell, what grunge band do you know of that adds sleigh bells to its songs during laborious guitar solos?!

Anyway, Unlistenable was recorded in less than 72 hours in someone's living room during the fall of 1996. This record was deemed "unlistenable," which I'm pretty sure isn't a real word, by the band's label (hence the title) and led to Steel Pole Bath Tub being dropped (your guess is as good as mine as to how Steel Pole Bath Tub ever got signed to a major label in the first place). The band self-released this CD and calls this set "the best recordings we ever made," but I feel as though I should point out that Scars From Falling Down is probably their best record. It took almost six years to get the recordings out of the hands of their ex-label (ain't it funny how the record was not good enough to be released by the label, and yet the label still didn't want to part ways with it?) and it's sad to think that the band struggled so much to put out a record hardly anyone will ever hear.

Unlistenable is an ironically listenable recording that is also a fascinating study in self-combustion. The songs sound dangerously out of touch with the post-grunge landscape of '96 alt-rock, and they drone on in a way that's kinda boring, really, but in a good way (like church!). The highlight of the disc is the band's deliciously noisy reworking of The Cars' "Just What I Needed" — in the hands of this Grungy power trio, the guitar noise in question, which is punctuated by blasts of feedback, is rendered so much more relevant than your standard alternative-type rock. Cheers to you and yours, Steel Pole Bath Tub! Jeers to Steve Huey and "All Music Guide."


by Joseph Larkin




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