The Abs --TurboSphinct

The Abs, as I have written elsewhere, are easily one of the most entertaining bands I've got in my collection. With lyrics ranging from astoundingly zany to downright facile to strikingly intelligent and undeniably melodic, hook-heavy guitar work, the Abs rarely miss the mark with their brand of quirky pop-punk. On the band's 1988 EP, TurboSphinct, the Abs pretty much follow their formula to a T. Take "Same Mistake Twice," the disk's opening track, for instance: with Fatty Ashtray's bouncing bassline as the song's groundwork, Baz sings of feeling like he's been "sent here on a mission / to eradicate complacency among the young men in this town" (peculiar word selection for a pop song, no?) in such a way as to make the listener feel like he or she is a bad person for not singing along. The second track, the awkwardly-titled "Hand Me Down (My Silver Boulder Knives)," for better or worse, reminds me of William Carlos Williams's "The Dance," a poem whose rhythm mimetically captures the festive (well, drunken, actually) whirling, twirling, rollicking pirouettes of the dancers in Pieter Brueghel, the Elder's painting, "The Kermess":

I mean, I realize this sounds ridiculous but, in all seriousness, that's the image that comes to mind every time I play the song. Opening with playfully militaristic drumroll and a bassline that could have been lifted out of some sort of folk festival dance number, "Hand Me Down (My Silver Boulder Knives)" is one of the most immediately danceable tracks I've heard in a long time. And, I should note, that by "danceable," I mean wild hopping from foot-to-foot with the punch-counterpunch swing of the song's beat.

The EP's B-side is not quite as strong as the romping A-side. While both "Legal Aid" and "Jackhammer" are consistent with the band's poppier sound, both add subtle elements of mid-eighties hard rock and hair metal to the mix. Though barely noticeable, the shift in sound is perceptible and neither song is especially memorable. Fortunately, the Abs did not fall into the trap as did so many of their contemporaries and, with their next album, took a decidedly non-metallic approach to songsmithing. To delightful effect, I might add.


jeffen said…
Sounds like the kind of band I need to hear.

Do you ever upload the music?
Yeah, they're one of those great hidden treasures. There's a two-disk retrospective that came out last year, actually, that includes both albums, their EP, singles and some live stuff from the John Peel show. Totally worth picking up!

And, no, I do not upload any music; I just write up reviews :)

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