Corn Demon

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Before the label cowpunk had quite become a cliché, the Hickoids were among its most aggressive practitioners. Corn Demon is essentially a reissue of the Hickoids' mid-'80s debut album, We're in It for the Corn, adding all four songs from the 7" EP they put out shortly afterward, Hard Corn. Cowpunk, in fact, might be too mild a word for what the band play on their maiden LP. It's often hardcore punk with a dash of galloping country, though almost always with a gonzoid energy of the sort that make their covers of the "Hee Haw" theme and Elvis Presley's "Burnin' Love" almost unrecognizable if you aren't paying attention. Most of the material's original, however, putting the stress on cowboy-inflected thrash rhythms, blurry guitars, and an irreverence suggestive of punk-weaned descendants of the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. It's not all thrash; when the beat slows, at least a bit, the obvious influence of Iggy Pop on lead singer Jeff Smith comes to the fore, and there are dashes of Link Wray chicken scratch guitar, barroom piano and the like in the less frenetic moments. Unfortunately, the scream-snarled vocals are submerged in the mix; that's a common feature of punk records, of course, but not one that necessarily works to the advantage of a group that make humor one of their selling points, as the Hickoids do. It remains an impressively assaultive fusion, though perhaps not one that less juiced-up listeners will enjoy in an unrelenting album-length dose. Of the four cuts taken from the Hard Corn EP, two are irreverent punk covers (of the Eagles' "Take It Easy" and Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting," here retitled "Corn-Foo Fighting"); "Driftwood 40-23" is a country ballad, although a closer listen to the lyrics revealed the band were poking similarly irreverent fun at bathetic country lyrics; and another original ("Vittles") reverts to a more typically raunchy style. Historical liner notes round out this release of the Hickoids' most notable and forceful recordings.

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