Bob Log III - School Bus

Bob Log III
School Bus

Released 1998 on Fat Possum
Reviewed by Robin Tripp, 05/07/2007ce

1. String Around A Stick (2:40)
2. All The Rockets Go Bang (2:50)
3. Fire In The Hole (5:23)
4. Big Ass Hard On (1:47)
5. Duck Back Down (2:40)
6. Old Lady Jones (1:53)
7. Look At That (2:22)
8. Clock (3:49)
9. I Want Your Shit On My Leg (2:00)
10. Cold Motor (1:55)
11. Pig Tail Swing (1:57)
12. The Look at the Walk (3:12)
13. Land of A Thousand Swirling Asses (2:52)

All material written by Bob Log III.

When Bob Log III was a child, he lost his left hand in a boating accident. It was soon replaced with a monkey's paw, and a new guitar style was born... or at least that's what the press release tells us. Regardless, Bob Log III remains a fascinating cult figure; an enigmatic icon who appears on stage in a boiler suit and flight helmet, and often invites the females of the audience to come up on stage and dip a tit in his drink (the subject of his fantastically warped 2003 signature tune, Boob Scotch, from the excellent 'Log Bomb' album of the same year). Essentially, his music draws heavily on the combined influence of garage rock, bluegrass and pure delta blues, creating a sound that perhaps suggests what the White Stripes would sound like on acid, but in truth, remains closer in spirit to the legendary Primus track, Wynona's Big Brown Beaver. I suppose I could insert a reference here about how a band like The White Stripes are "corporate indie" and therefore not in the same league as the more obscure Bob Log... but that would be nonsense. The same mentality of pseudo-intellectual reviewers who would rather have something OBSCURE and SHIT, as opposed to something POPULAR and GOOD. In truth, the White Stripes and Log are essentially coming from the same place, in terms of influences... the difference though is in the subject matter and the arrangement of the songs.

Whereas The White Stripes have broadened their sonic pallet considerably in the last seven or eight years - moving away from the guitar and drum combination of their earlier work to incorporate pianos, organs and much use of extended, Led Zeppelin guitar solos - Bob Log III likes to keep things simple. His signature style is built around a one man band approach that he began employing out of necessity almost a decade ago, mixing his warped and unique guitar style with a single snare-drum, the muffled vocals that are screamed out from behind that imposing flight helmet, and all manner of weird and wonderful tape distortions and various other bits and bobs of miscellaneous, distorted percussion. His lyrics, from what I can make out from beneath the continual fuzz of the lo-fi production, are also a lot less radio friendly than you would expect to here on the average White Stripes' LP, with his various obsessions with absurd characters and situations, ironic misogyny and worrying interest in scatological humour infusing tracks such as Big Ass Hard On, Duck Back Down and I Want Your Shit on My Leg (all taken from the album in question), as well as subsequent tracks like the aforementioned Boob Scotch (which opens with the classic holler of "HEY!!! There's a boob in my scotch!!") and the memorable garage band rave up of Clap Your Tits. Though no doubt a tad repetitive to some ears, to me, this is all fantastic fun; from the guttural pig grunts and rampaging rush of the opening track String Around a Stick, to the closing burst of Land of A Thousand Swirling Asses, the mood and sense of seedy, back-room revelry is unrelenting and infectious in the extreme.

The tempo throughout is frantic and fast, with many of the songs often sounding like stripped-down acoustic or peddle-steale versions of speed metal bands or abrasive acts like Anthrax, Motörhead, Mastodon and early Metallic (to name just a few varied examples), with Log and his posse whooping and a' hollering over the repetitive thwack of the drum-beat rhythm and that clanging, almost industrialised steal guitar sound. Later tracks like the five-minute grimy blues rock of Fire in the Hole and the punchier, rambling stomp of Duck Back Down bring to mind the lo-fi bluegrass inclinations of Tom Waits, particularly on albums like Mule Variations (1999) and Reel Gone (2004), or perhaps more fittingly on something like Bone Machine (1992); with the same distorted vocals and dirty blues style featured on tracks like The Earth Died Screaming and All Stripped Doen also employed throughout the album in question. Unsurprisingly, Waits is a fan of Bob Log, once quoted - when asked of his favourite "new music" - as saying; "...and then there's this guy named Bob Log, you ever heard of him? He's this little kid - nobody ever knows how old he is - wears a motorcycle helmet and he has a microphone inside of it and he puts the glass over the front so you can't see his face, and plays slide guitar. It's just the loudest strangest stuff you've ever heard. You don't understand one word he's saying. I like people who glue macaroni on to a piece of cardboard and paint it gold. That's what I aspire to basically", which no doubt gave Log's career something of a boost, as it was also around this time that Bob Log apparently supported Franz Ferdinand on sell out tour (...I wouldn't know too much about that myself though). Log, however, prefers to assess his career in more simplistic terms, stating "I'm a professional, God damn it. I live in a car."

The album has a continual sound and style that is distorted throughout it's thirty-five minute running time... which is all you need, really (any more could possible become grating, or perhaps even cause the listener to have visions of giant breasts marauding across the rural countryside, akin to that one particular scene from Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask, with possible worrying sidelines through John Boorman's Deliverance). Despite this, the album still seems nicely structured and surprisingly varied, with the album taking in fast and hyper-kinetic bluegrass/garage rock numbers like the aforementioned String Around a Stick, All the Rockets Go Bang and Big Ass Hard On, alongside noisy instrumentals such as the percussion heavy Clock and the continual droning of Old Lady Jones. To me, it's simply a remarkable album, whichever way you chose to approach it; one in which the influences are easy to spot, but the way in which they've been incorporated and developed really take it to another level of vision, scope and experimentation... or at least, that's true of my own personal perspective. I suppose it would be easy to see the image and the self-mythology and think "novelty act", but I prefer to see it as a natural progression of the blues form; managing to move backwards and forwards between such diverse influences as The Blue Grass Boys and Earl Scruggs, to Primus and The Stooges, to garage rock and punk rock simultaneously, whilst fusing them all together into one wild and weird wonderful whole.

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