Punk Rock Retrospective: The Butthole Surfers’ Independent Worm Saloon

What is it that’s so fascinating about the Butthole Surfers? Is it their experimental sound textures? Their streamlined rock aesthetic? Or is it plainly their wacky sense of self worth?

Perhaps it’s all of the above, but that focus on band presence is somewhat secondary to the Butthole Surfers when it comes to putting out kick ass albums. You see, the Butthole Surfers never wished to be captured in any way. They never wanted to be bottled up in metaphors, only to be found more confusing by those who dared study their habits.

Independent Worm Saloon is the perfect album to demonstrate that, for whatever its worth. The Butthole Surfers were at a transitional stage in their career, at this point. They were being recognized more for their raw talent. Their stage presence had grown. Their on-air presence grew as well; they were, for the first time (consistently), on MTV with their video for “Who was in my room last night?”

Surely that was what did it for me; being introduced to the Butthole Surfers via some weird acidic cartoon/comedy/stage performance at 2 AM on a school night was enough to thrill any creatively-driven child. So when I bought Independent Worm Saloon [on cassette] and heard everything that came after ‘Who was in my room last night?” it hooked me onto this band as tightly then as I am now.

Little did I realize that the Butthole Surfers weren’t exactly what they used to be on previous albums. On Independent Worm Saloon there’s an obvious leap into pop-rock, which is a term I don’t particularly care for. But it’s heartfelt, and the Surfers do it well. Songs like “Strawberry” have since made the Surfers famous.

Regardless of shoving any of the Butthole Surfers’ sounds into categories, every track of Independent Worm Saloon contains at least one redeeming element. Another plus: that redeeming element is often a guitar solo! Independent Worm Saloon was produced by none other than Led Zeppelin former bass player John Paul Jones, which makes it entertaining enough to listen to.

Of course, the album has to have some downfalls and, ironically, those downfalls come in songs that are more reminiscent to old Surfers material. Songs like “Clean it up” and “Dog inside your body” drag the album down, although they do play a significant role in maintaining a solid pace.

Independent Worm Saloon is a real punk rock album, regardless of any genres anyone, including me, has pasted on it.

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