Steel Pole Bath Tub


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Recorded in 1996, this last recording from San Francisco's Steel Pole Bath Tub was deemed "unlistenable" by the major label they had recorded it for at the time. The label called it "a soundtrack to nothing." How a band like Steel Pole Bath Tub ever ended up on a major label is a mystery. It was part of the insanity of the mid-'90s that bands like Steel Pole Bath Tub and the Melvins could ever have caused major-label execs to see dollar signs. Few of the noisier bands to get signed lasted more than a year or two on major labels and many, like Steel Pole Bath Tub, broke up immediately afterwards. On the other hand, a "soundtrack to nothing" isn't such a bad description of this album. The vocals are mostly buried behind repetitive music and many of the songs sound more like bits and pieces or soundtrack outtakes than a real album. Certainly, it was ridiculous to think a major label would release a record that doesn't even really rock and is bizarre in an early Butthole Surfers sort of way. The labels that specialized in the noisier acts of the time, Amphetamine Reptile or Touch and Go, generally put out records that were more focused. But there is plenty to enjoy on Unlistenable, from their whacked-out cover of the Cars' "What I Need" to any number of songs that range from the almost pretty to the consciously weird and lazy. It's not at all a bad record, but it sure is messy and all over the place.

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