After Pioughd's semi-misfire and Rough Trade's subsequent collapse, the Surfers were in a surprising position. Not only were they courted and signed to Capitol thanks to the Nirvana-led alternative explosion, they also got high-profile arranger and Led Zeppelin legend John Paul Jones to produce the new album. When Saloon surfaced in early 1993, some accused the band of basically cloning Haynes' memorable collaboration with Ministry, "Jesus Built My Hot Rod," for the entire album. It's true that "Some Dispute Over T-Shirt Sales," simply takes the lyrics from that number and grafts it onto a quick rip from the band, but Saloon is far from a clone of Ministry or anything else. More energetic than the straggling Pioughd and benefiting from Jones' brilliant ear and tight, crisp arrangements, Saloon starts with the fierce "Who Was In My Room Last Night?"; from there, the Surfers tear through hilarious and strong numbers. Creating radio-friendly unit shifters was clearly the last thing on the band's mind, as numbers like "The Annoying Song," with Haynes sounding like what a radar dish would do if it could sing, and the wittily solemn acoustic ditty "The Ballad of Naked Man" demonstrate. The Surfers' taste for rude grostequerie surfaces throughout -- the foul "Chewin' George Lucas' Chocolate," the series of vomit sounds that conclude the record after "Clean It Up"'s heavy trudge and the extremely disturbing artwork are just a few examples. Combined with numerous examples of Surfer-mania at its finest -- the dipsomaniacal rager "Alcohol," the electric country hoedown "You Don't Know Me" and more -- and Saloon is that rarest of records, a major-label debut that surpasses the indie release preceding it.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett