Punk would never have survived its mid-’90s Top 40 emasculation without bands like New Jersey’s Electric Frankenstein and Seattle’s Supersuckers. Alternatives to the Offspring, these bands carved a slot in the ever-contrary coolness cycle with basic, even rootsy, rock ‘n’ roll. But unlike the monkey-suited underground hipsters that currently own the moment, there’s much more to these bands than mere aesthetics. This split disc is proof.
Supersuckers singer Eddie Spaghetti has a gimmickless way with words to match the band’s meaty CBGB classicism, all lightly chicken-fried with twang. The opening cut, “Then I’m Gone,” has more than a few of these lyrical nuggets (“Yeah, I still smoke and I drink too much/Yeah, I’m still broke, baby, let’s go dutch”), and “Shitfire” is a tight, riffy rave-up which stands among the best of the band’s decade-long run. But it’s the Supersuckers’ reading of Electric Frankenstein’s “Teenage Shutdown” that’s the album’s brightest spark. Liberated from EF’s impervious bombast by acoustic country-blues , the song is the most astute music-industry anthem since the Replacements’ “IOU,” with cranky, fatalistic lines like, “Everybody gives it up, you don’t know how to stop/You never get another shot, and I don’t wanna talk.” “Teenage Shutdown” aside, however, EF singer Steve Miller is prone to right-wing-flavored rants against losers and lollygaggers — illustrated in “Rip It Apart,” which berates an addict, and “Not This Time,” a complaint about “social prostitution.” It’s enough to make you wonder what gives underground cock-rockers like EF the right to such Nietzschean superiority. But if you’d invented their formula– grand Pete Townshend/Angus Young riffism with an airtight East Coast hardcore punch — you might be pretty arrogant yourself. Holding back nothing in this minor release, EF deliver some of their hottest tunes yet, adding some ominous harmonies à la Damned for good measure, along with a grimy Stooges-like rendition of the Supersuckers’ “She’s My Bitch.” EF’s metallic oomph, like the Supersuckers’ frayed saloon punk, has a quality you won’t find often enough in punk, either on MTV or college radio. It’s trend-proof.