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The Supersuckers live: Far Beyond Drivel

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“So what are you doing this weekend, Charlie?”

“Well, Mom, I’m going down to New York City to see a band with a friend of mine.”

“You’re going to see a band? I hope it’s not one of those disgusting mosh bands.”

“C’mon, Mom, it’s been years since I moshed. That’s totally 1994.”

“You’re a grown-up married man, Charlie. That moshing is just disgusting and juvenile.”

“Look, Mom, I swear: I have no intention of moshing.”

My resolve lasted about three songs into the Supersucker’s Friday night set at Manhattan’s Knitting Factory. They opened with two new songs, from their charmingly-titled forthcoming album Motherfuckers Be Trippin’, and then popped the cork on some of their old favorites. I think it was probably “Creepy Jackelope Eye,” off 1994’s La Manu Cornuda, that drew me into the pit for the first time since my mid-twenties, and between old and new songs I was trapped there for the rest of the brilliantly successful set.

How to describe the Supersuckers, for the uninitiated? Cowboy-punk? Country-metal? Maybe you’ll indulge me in coining the term “smirk-core,” which gets at the essential ingredient in the Supersuckers’s excellence: their sense of fun. They play with the tightness and intensity of the greatest heavy metal bands, but their lyrics are entirely free of bombast, and their stage presence is closer to Green Day than to Guns-N-Roses, to whom they might be compared musically. Who else but the Supersuckers could whip a jaded New York crowd into a song-and-response of “Are you ready? Yes we’re ready!” in the chorus of a song entitled “Rock Your Ass”?

The Supersuckers know how to treat their fans, and they brought out most of their “hits,” such as they are. Their new material sounded great as well, including a jokey lament for the music industry entitled “Rock-and-Roll Records Ain’t Sellin’ This Year” and “Pretty Fucked-Up,” which had a chorus to make Axl Rose proud: “She used to be pretty/Now she’s pretty fucked-up.” Needless to say, they also rocked very hard, bouncing back and forth between the tight rhythm section of drummer Dancing Eagle and lead singer/bassist Eddie Spaghetti, and the dueling lead guitars of Dan Bolton and Ron Heathman. The latter may be the best unknown rock guitarist playing today; close your eye on his solos on “Jackelope Eye” and “Born With A Tail,” and you can almost see the notes cascading off his strings in a synesthetic shower of sparks. Having several too many Boddington’s may help with this, of course.

Given how much fun the band has on stage, it’s easy to forget that they, too, are grown-up married men. At one point, on the verge of launching into “Retarded Bill” from their debut Sub Pop CD The Smoke of Hell, they ended up cracking up because they couldn’t remember how it went. “Give us a break,” Eddie told the audience, “this song is twelve years old.” Most of the audience probably hadn’t had their first beer when the Supersuckers wrote the song, which they quickly remembered and peeled out on.

Are the Supersuckers the greatest rock-and-roll band in history, as proclaimed by the title of their recent greatest-hits CD? From the evidence of their recorded songs, I’d say maybe so, but whenever I see them live they put me over the top. By all means, buy their CDs, and try and figure out how any band can do so much with what would appear to be such slim material: songs about slacking out (“On the Couch”), random violence (“How to Maximize Your Kill Count”) and getting stoned (“High Ya,” “Ron’s Got the Cocaine,” and my favorite, “I Want the Drugs”) that end up wedged in your brain, egging on the inner headbanger that you don’t even think exists. But much more importantly, see them live. They are on a North American tour, and this is your chance to help keep rock evil and have an unbelievably good time to boot.

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About Charles Murtaugh