Intellectuals Are the Shoeshine Boys of the Ruling Elite

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So very perfectly American: a title that could have come from one of Frank Zappa's albums, a cover photo with references to Elvis and Brainerd, MN, and a concluding remake of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song, "Run Through the Jungle." Combined with slabs of noisy feedback twisted through country-blues hell and produced -- in one of his first major jobs -- by Butch Vig, Intellectuals Are the Shoeshine Boys was a gut- and eardrum-busting debut. If the Hobson brothers never became as famous as the Kirkwoods from the Meat Puppets, they and Gerald, master of the contemptuous bark and drawl, carved out their own mark in '80s independent rock. The Captain Beefheart-by-way-of-the Birthday Party roots of the band were perfectly obvious, but in light of where the trio went, the aesthetic -- if that's the right word -- got established early on, then was perfected. Gerald is just nuts; his shuffling basslines rumble along but it's his way around complaining about assholes on "Pile Driver," to name but one instance, that makes him a perfect anti-star. Bill Hobson on guitar is the instrumental center of the band in terms of invention, mixing up rhythm and tweaked, smashed solos that in combination with Gerald's snarling, wickedly funny belligerence sound like a dirty, sticky bar miles from the town center about to explode. More than once there are obvious hints of an artier approach that they otherwise carefully play down (the blasting "Parade" could easily be an early tribal-skewed Bauhaus number, aside from the vocals). As for the Creedence cover, compared to the destruction carried out on other people's songs in the future, it's not too shocking -- but that would shortly change. Tied for best songs are a sort of jump blues called and about freak killer "Ed Gein" or the terse "A Man's Got to Be a Man to Be a Man."

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