Asylum Street Spankers

Spanker Madness

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If you're ever flipping through the discs in your local record shop wondering "where might I find the perfect soundtrack for my weekend backyard hash get-down," the cover of Spanker Madness, a parody of the propaganda posters associated with the 1938 cult film classic Reefer Madness, should be enough to answer your question. Otherwise, here's the skinny on the disc: This latest Asylum Street Spankers hootenanny consists of 15-some people singing and playing up the wonders of cannabis with everything from guitars, ukuleles, and harmonicas to washboards, bells, and "various pieces of metal piled in the back of Leroy's '67 Ford F100 parked in the studio driveway." The songs are usually trite country blues and old-style jazz ditties: "Wake and Bake" is a love duet about a couple bonding over the morning's first toke of tea, and odd man out and executive producer Wammo stands up for his drug of choice on "Beer." All the tomfoolery (one of the record's more memorable lyrics goes "Marijuana makes me wanna eat candy and screw Madonna/With her hair bleached by peroxide/Huffin' on some nitrous oxide") and the lighthearted jam-session atmosphere makes it tough to take the Spankers seriously, but the album has its solemn moments. On "Take the Heat," for instance, Guy Forsyth sings about a busted woman battling to keep custody of her daughter. Like the doobies they sing about, the lead vocal duties are passed around from song to song, as are the instrumental solos. Wammo and fellow executive producer Christina Mars share most of the singing duties, although other notable performances include Forsyth on "Orion" and Stanley Smith keening like Randy Newman back in the day on "Another Blade of Grass." Other than maybe Dr. Dre's The Chronic, there's probably never been an album dedicated to the use of narcotics that has been too commercially successful. Which quickly dispels the notion that the 13 retro-sounding tunes on this disc are some kind of sellout-throwback gimmick. Coming on the heels of the derivative Big Bad Voodoo Daddy/Cherry Poppin' Daddies neo-swing trend, when suddenly any punk with a zoot suit who knew how to snap and pronounce that word (say it..."dad-dio") was hip, this disc's relative lack of contrivance was a breath of fresh air.

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