Silage – Watusi

When one washes down a Rockstar Energy Drink (the only “energy” drink I like despite the gratuitous amounts of energy usually inherent in them) with two cups of high-grade coffee, something happens. That certain something, aside from making you run around in circles on your front lawn without any shoes on, enables you to understand how something like Silage and their album Watusi comes along.

This is a great album cover, and unfortunately hard to make any jokes for.

Now, I’m no proponent of punk rock music, and never really have been. I consider the genre dirty, misleading, and worst of all, unbearably boring. Power chords and the same 1-2 beat for every song wears down on my patience almost as fast as indie-rock. Thus, when I am going to listen to punk music, it’d better be good.

Well, aside from the fact that there’s a little more going on here than just straight up punk, this album is quite good. It’s got that very “highschool” mentality blended with youthful Christian ideals (yeah it’s a Christian band, I told you I needed to start writing more about these groups because they’re such a part of my earliest listenings), and the whole thing is uncomfortably energetic. The thing that sets these boys apart from the other groups are kind of hidden amongst the clean-cut revelry, and it’s mostly to do with the instrumentation.

Firstly, there’s the bass, I say this because the first song, “Watusi”, starts with the bass. You may notice, depending on the quality of your listening apparatus, that the tone of the bass is “very good indeed”. It’s got a sort of splashy shimmering treble amidst its depth, and in fact has kind of a signature “Fender” sound, though the sound can be accomplished with a few other basses (since most of them knock off Fender anyway). The vocals comes in with a goofy rap (but endearingly goofy) and then the guitar and horns come in, and that’s the other side of what I love about the instrumentation.

The two brothers, Lance and Shane Black, who I believe are the guitarist and bassist, respectively, are pros at this whole “Fender tone” thing, as Lance(?) produces some very respectable tones on a Fender Stratocaster. It’s clean and overdriven, and maintains that surfy tone that Fenders are known for, and is played as Fenders should be, frenetically.

This is especially evident in the next two tracks, the first of which is the amusing “My Car Makes Me Sin”, which has the simple philosophy of your crappy car throwing you into fits of rage, about which the singer feels remorse, but also disdain for his terrible car. More important than that, however, is the unique presentation, wherein the guitar is being played in this very fast blues-based riff, against which a trombone is playing 3 tones that kind of sound like a car horn honking. That with the quite fast punk beat (that references all the required notes so it’s not just a mindless punk beat) makes for a song that is undisputably catchy. The trombone playing (which gets its own pre-chorus solos) sounds about like someone who didn’t take it seriously in high school and refused to improve afterward. In fact, the trombonist is the singer, the aptly-named and purple-haired Damian Horne, who seems to not mind his sub-standard playing, and in fact it gives the song an appropriate amount of disheveled fun.

The same is true for the next song, “Drop Some Names”, which features some very disconcerted rapping from Damian Horne, whose vocal tenor gives it a very eccentric feel. That, and the song drops the names of just about every one-hit wonder rap and pop group of the late 80’s early 90’s, driving it home with the message “What never dies is the name of Christ”, which is true, and perhaps not the somberest of songs, is definitely made unique by the wonderful combination of the guitar and bass that I mentioned before. Really, if this weren’t a Christian band, I could see them taking up a comfortable spot of success among all those terrible pop punk bands that have thankfully gone to the wayside in favor of the way-more-boring indie rockers in today’s middle and high schools.

Perhaps a much more eccentric metaphor for Christianity is the song “Cool Shoes”:

My elephant will never let me down
When pigs and snakes invite me to the ground
Close my eyes, and change my shoes
And that’s when I fell off of You
So please send Your big trunk down

These guys don’t mess around, clearly. The next song, “Blue Igloo Cooler”, takes that “fisher of men” passage from the Bible to a rather interesting half-literal interpretation, with a killer instrumental bridge that gives way to a catchy almost scatting-style refrain, complete with bongos!

The fun doesn’t stop there, as we’re then brought to a wonderfully sarcastic song (I can only imagine it’s sarcastic, it simply doesn’t work if taken at face value) called “I Love The Radio”. Ah NOW you probably understand why I love these guys so much. Here we go:

I love the radio, it always plays a good selection
I never hear the same song twice, I never hear the same song twice
And I never touch that dial, there’s too much anticipation
What will they play next? It’s sure to be the coolest

I love the radio
It’s so entertaining
It’s so captivating
It’s so amusing, and it’s so confusing
When I don’t know what to do
I go to Tower and I try to choose
Well I can count on 106.5
To be my trusty guide

Wonderful. It then goes on a similar tirade against Music Television, which might confuse modern listeners, but us old guys know that they used to play “music videos” on the television before the days of the internet. This was before reality television, I’m sure you wouldn’t remember.

The next song pulls absolutely one of my favorite moves an album has ever pulled. You know how I love intermissions, right? Well, this one is called “Sappy Intermission”, and it starts with a piano playing a sad A minor piece, which is then joined by two trombones, both of which are wailing like dying cats to not particular tune. It’s so discombobulated that you won’t be able to prevent laughing. It’s the quintessential “sappy” song, and I think it might have started as an improvisational thing, because you can hear people talking in the studio behind the piano if you’ve got $500 studio headphones like I do.

Next up, we’ve got “Election Skank” which is sung so fast you can’t possibly know what they’re singing about. It’s basically about politics and how, instead of caring about what equally terrible political opponents have to say about each other, the singer just wants… chicken and milk. The backup singer asks, “And he just wants… chicken and milk?!” Again, the pounding diminished riffs played by the strat really bring this song to an uncomfortable level of energetic, in the hopes to distract you from the sloppy trombone playing.

We then have an interesting song called “Do This”, which is about rebelling against parental instruction, and builds to resisting instruction from all areas of life up to old age, and brings the point home about “pride comes before a fall”. It’s a pretty good idea, though the song itself is slightly lacking in catchiness. Hey can’t win them all, right? This might be your favorite song though, I have no idea, I’ve never heard of another person who has heard Silage.

Next we have “Giggle”, which is another psuedo-rap song about being really giddy, and putting flowers in your hair and acting all crazy. It’s also not one of my favorites, though it’s still quite fun.

We then have “Stumble”, which is kind of a weird song, as it’s played in mostly diminished intervals and 7th chords. I think it’s about being lazy and how that’s a bad thing. The instrumentation is really good, though, and even the trombone is played a bit better than in earlier songs. Good stuff!

Then, in case you missed the part where this is a Christian band, the song “Jesus Is My Best Friend” comes in with a quiet rockabilly acoustic guitar:

It’s fun to turn the amps up to 11
And sing so loud you can’t understand the words
And sometimes that’s ok, when they’re not profound
But I need to sing this kind of song tonight

‘Cause Jesus is my best friend
And when I don’t do enough
It’s still good enough
‘Cause Jesus is my best friend, all right

And then the horns and guitar play the James Bond theme. Why? I don’t know. I dig it, though.

A kickin’ bass-line introduces us to “Double You E’s?”, which I can’t begin to explain, except that it’s a little more “rockin'” than the other songs, despite the presence of horns. The singing is also really good, even if makes not a lot of sense.

Continuing the familiar theme of happiness, we’ve got another giddy song called “Smile”, which has a tandem bass/guitar riff that goes up and down almost like a carnival song. It’s well crafted, and the bridge (which actually appears twice in the song), where the singer sings a weak falsetto “Ahhhh” up a scale to a high note which is screamed is a definite high point, and gives the song an element of chaos I can’t help but respect. The instrumental bit after that reminds me of the “mosh” portion of just about any metal song, only it’s against a trombone solo so I’m not sure what you’d be doing there in concert except having lots o’ fun.

Finally, we have a wonderful cover of “Be True To Your School” by the Beach Boys. After all, what is punk rock without re-creating those classic rock hits in a fast and furious way? I suppose, despite the cliche, that I enjoy this song a lot. After it ends (and it ends on a particularly loud note), there’s a hidden song by a weirdo who does lounge versions of Christian rock songs…. yes, Christian music has its own Richard Cheese. I forget what this guy’s name is, but he does the song “Watusi” and it’s very irritating. I even edited the .mp3 itself when I transferred this to my player to avoid having to hear it.

All in all, this album means a lot to me for a couple of reasons. One, it’s one of my favorite summer albums, because it’s just so fun, whether you agree with the lyrical content or not. For two, it’s the album with which I learned how to play lead guitar! I guess since most people’s reaction to my lead guitar playing is “good enough”, this album has taught me well. Oh, and it’s another great Christian album from 1997, which I may have discussed before, was a very good year for Christian music in my opinion.

Well, until tomorrow!


3 Responses

  1. Had this on my mp3 player (thanks to your CDs…hehe). It’s good, I like it. No FIF, but still good. I think I have Vegas Car Chasers on here too, I seem to remember it being a little different than this, but digging a few songs that came up on the shuffle.

    “Sappy Intermission” actually came up on shuffle and cracked me up, which reminded me of them and prompted me to listen to this album and read this.

    BTW, I’m trying to leave comments on all the posts as I read them. This does mean I’ll have to go back to a few I’ve read and said nothing on probably! I’m probably 100 posts behind in my reading….wow.

  2. That’s cool, dude, it lets me know whenever you post a comment, so I’ll make sure to read all of them as you comment! I always love comments even if they’re from close personal friends who could just as easily tell me over the instant messenger or something.

  3. […] time, as I’ve said before, 1997 was a VERY good year for Christian music. While most of my favorite albums that came out that year have been long forgotten, it was a great year for original music […]

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