Bert Susanka

Onward Christian Slater

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AllMusic Review by

Onward Christian Slater is just the kind of smarmy pop culture wink of an album title that usually portends smug awfulness within the grooves. Surprisingly, the title song itself kicks off the album with a gloriously kitschy blast of twangy surf guitar, mariachi trumpets, space age bachelor pad percussion and wordless choral vocals, like a cross between the opening section of Frank Zappa's Lumpy Gravy and an Esquivel album. Naturally, this then leads into a cheerful bubblegum-punk tune about the joys of the fishing life, complete with Beach Boys-style backing vocals. Bert Susanka, better known as the leader of the cult pop-punk act the Ziggens, isn't even pretending to make his first solo album musically or tonally consistent: bits of power pop, mopey indie rock gloom, ska and rockabilly flit through these 18 songs, and for every two goofball tunes like "They Don't Want Me in the NBA" and "When All the Beer Is Gone," there's a more serious, even mature tune like "So Many Tears" or "The Vicissitudes of Life" that's closer in tone to, say, the Weakerthans. Onward Christian Slater is a roller-coaster ride, then, and occasionally, it does descend to the cutesiness of its title, but it's an unpretentious gem that may well appeal to fans of the Queers or the Mr. T Experience.

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