Having outlived several garage booms and countless other piqued peaks, the Cheater Slicks have stuck to their guns for nearly a quarter century. Seemingly always moving upwind, the band has never ceased its slow drag through the murky muck of rock’s underbelly. Their output falls within a long lineage of degenerative ruckus, rooted in the moment when the blues snapped and went rock & roll. There’s an element of punk abandon in there too, sure, but the Slicks deal in, as they say, the real junk.
Our Food Is Chaos, recently released by Almost Ready, captures the band in its first incarnation, with Allen “Alpo” Paulino (formerly of the Real Kids) on bass, making its first attempt to record an album with engineer Bill T. Miller in 1989. Perhaps the band—guitarists Tom and Dave Shannon and drummer Dana Hatch—already knew that things with Alpo weren’t going to pan out (he would soon leave the band and be replaced by Merle Allin, brother of GG Allin, before the Slicks decided a bassist was altogether unneccesary), as it’s unclear why they ditched these recordings, though several of them would end up on the Crypt Skidmarks comp. As it is, the tracks here (five covers and four originals split between a 12-inch and a 7-inch) show the band’s gnarly sound to already be in potent form.
Indeed, if anything, Our Food marks the shape of Slicks to come. Here, the band has already found its footing and throttles forth with full exuberance and completely without restraint. On tracks like their cover of Murphy and the Mob’s “Born Loser” and their own “Flashback,” one can tell that Dana Hatch was born from the same greasy black lagoon that once birthed Lux Interior as he howls into his mic like a feral cat in heat. Similarly, on their version of “Please Give Me Something,” Tom Shannon (I’m guessing) sounds positively possessed as he commands the band to “rock!” and they follow orders.
The originals show the Slicks’ indelicate sensibility to already be intact. Among them is “Murder,” a longtime staple. Here, the song is already in bludgeoning form, if a bit thinner in cadence. While the fidelity of this tape (restored by Adam Smith at CDR) may not be the greatest, it’s still evident that the Shannons had just begun to tap the full brunt of their guitar brawn. “Dark Night” reveals the brothers laying the foundation to the wall of white noise dirge on which much of their catalog would build. It also taps into the primal impulses that the band has always shared with its forefathers, a kind of journey to the crossroads, if you will, even if the crossroads are just some dead-end street.The Cheater Slicks have always survived on the perimeters, if for no other reason than the fact most are too afraid to venture out to their realm. With a couple more releases in the pipeline with Almost Ready and Columbus Discount, 2011 may turn out to be a banner year for the band. For those already keen to the Slicks’ wavelength, it no doubt will be. Stephen Slaybaugh, Agit Reader