FAME Review: The Asylum Street Spankers - The Last Laugh
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The Asylum Street Spankers - The Last Laugh

The Last Laugh

The Asylum Street Spankers

Yellow Dog Records - YDR1414

Available from Yellow Dog Records' Spankers Bandcamp page.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
(progdawg@hotmail.com)

Oh ye gods, cover me in a tatty ebon shroud and dump ashes upon my quivering pate!! The Spankers are dead, and there is no hope! I weep, I wail, I howl, I fall to the ground and palpitate like a short-circuited electro-dog! What succor could possibly assuage my limitless grief??? What, I ask, what…what…heeeeey, mebbe this here righteous post-mortem final CD will do the trick! Yes, it's true, America, The Asylum Street Spankers, one of the country's most unique and irreverent bands (well, not quite to the outrageous extent of The Meatmen but who the hell is demented enough to match those punk bastards on their own ground?), decided to bite the big one three years ago, in 2011, after a 17-year run. And what a glorious run it was.

Like the Meatmen, the Spankers were also punk-rooted but, like quite a few others of the ilk, found themselves distracted by roots musics and similar modes. Just ask Dave Alvin how damned addictive that stuff can be as you switch heart and fingers over. Founders Wammo, Christina Marrs, and Guy Forsyth (who departed after three years) were a cynical lot with a love of the old-timey and even played most of their live gigs acoustically until 2004. The band was cognomened first after a street that led to a psychiatric hospital (whence many believed Wammo paid room and board, maybe even ringmastered the joint) and then after a term for proficiency on one's instrument…and I think y'all know how that old reference has modernly twisted to refer to an entirely different instrument, nudge-nudge, wink-wink. With musical and ribald prowesses more than amply demonstrated, the Spankers could lay claim to both heritages, I imagine, or at least catering to them.

The Last Laugh is taken from the three-day Austin farewell fete in 2011, and every cut is previously unreleased. By this time, Christina was the only surviving founder, but the band suffered not a whit under her captaincy 'cause that dame was and is as much the cut-up, roustabout, and, yes, mastermind as anyone who passed through the ensemble. Doubt my degree of accolade if you will, but you can count the number of top genre bands of this caliber on the fingers of less than two hands, and if being among the very best doesn't qualify with masterful mentation, then the term has little application. Awright? Good enough? Don't mess with me, man, I'm in mourning, 'member? I'll kick your ass down the stairs and send a golden shower air mail right afterwards.

Yas, yas, yassss, puh-lenty of jug and sloppy rave-up here along with everything else, and take a look at the gaggle of wastrels right there in the liner photos. Now that's a disreputable gang to git down and swozzle beers and moon-juice with, then spend the night heel-kickin', hollerin', 'n hoochie mama-ing until the sun rises bleary-eyed and groaning. Catch the interlude in She Texted Me Goodbye if'n ya wants a good laff, though there's plenty o' snarkery sailing all through the disc. Everywhere you go in Last, you'll find birdflips, classy struts, rumpled indignation, tight uproariousness, fickle breezes, and just about everything you dig the mode for. The band issued 15 CDs and 3 videos, not to mention 5 solo gigs by three members, and you can read about a trio of the group efforts here, here, and here. Start anydamnwhere you please in the catalogue, but start! As was so portentously presaged in The Annals of The Masters of the Airwaves (Epic KE 33060):

"We have not had relief. Our airwaves continue to be dominated by Spirits and the cries of desperate bureaucrats. Our streets have become sleaze chambers, their alleyways breeding grounds for all manner of crazed harpies. Rumors of aliens landed and disguised among us persist. There is no alternative; the Power must be unleashed! We must have relief!!"

THAT'S what I'm talking about! Relief from the TV, from the radio, from Brooks Bros. suits and Betty Crocker. With the Asylum Street Spankers but a memory, that blessed balm is more than ever fleeting, and as the eminent Board-certified Dr. Critgood, I'm writing the scrip right now. Take two discs, wash 'em down with a gallon of vodka, and call me in the morning…if you can find the phone…and if you can remember your name.

Track List:

  • Didn't It Rain (traditional)
  • Never Goin' Back (Christina Marrs)
  • I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water (Eddie Miller
  • Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan (traditional)
  • Ludicrous Heart (Christina Marrs)
  • She Texted Me Goodbye (Charlie King)
  • Make It Rain (Brennan / Waits)
  • The Swan (Camille Saint-Saens)
  • Savor Every Day (Charlie King)
  • Fuck Work (Nevada Newman)
  • The Final Song?
  • Coffee Grindin' Blues (Lucille Bogan)

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
 
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