Pros:Menacing, heavy, and bizarre.
Cons:Over 20 empty tracks to get to the droning secret song.
The Bottom Line: If you're into The Butthole Surfers, then get into Ed Hall.
Ed Hall spawned out of the same psychedelic playground as native peers, The Butthole Surfers. There must have been something strange in the water in Austin, Texas in the mid 80's. While The Butthole Surfers will forever hold the crown to being the kings of rock n' weird, Ed Hall was more like a brother band. Where live shows, large quanities of LSD and strange clothing(or lack of) was a staple during this period, they were actually both hardworking bands that earned every bit of recognition they got, if not more. The sad part of the story is that Ed Hall got barely any while The Surfers took that slice of pie the whole way to Capitol Records.
By the time Motherscratcher came out, Ed Hall already had three full length albums out. The first two on Boner Records, home to acts like Fang, The Melvins, and Steel Pole Bathtub, it was obvious they were in great company. Not long after they released their third LP on local label Trance Syndicate, run by none other than King Coffey of who else but The Butthole Surfers. Nice to see the money from major label release 'Independent Worm Saloon' was used to start up a label for lesser known but equally important bands.
For the past week or so I've been playing Ed Hall on a rather heavy rotation, and I can easily say that in my opinion Motherscratcher and Lala Land are their two most accessible records to walk into. Early in their career their live shows were a black light vomit fest from the depths of a bad acid trip. Their music was filled with samples from the Manson family women, and odd tidbits of pop culture hell. Much like Steel Pole Bathtub, Ed Hall couldn't touch anything without it becoming weird. Thank God for that, in a world where spandex and hair and Motley Crue was the closest kids could get to rock n' roll rebellion. Rock n' roll needed to be dangerous again. It needed to be fresh, meaningful, but above all still know how to laugh at itself.
Motherscratcher is pretty much the quintessential Ed Hall record. It's not my personal favorite...that would go to Glory Hole. But it gives the novice listener the perfect starting point without being totally overwhelmed and isolated. Almost every single track is a savage escape into oblivion. They maintain a more basic structure than previous efforts without losing edge. They found the perfect middle ground. A constantly changing amount of vocal effects, guitars that swirl and drive and actual melodies. At times this album invokes some sort of mocking feeling that you're being laughed at. Like, if you don't get it you never will. It feels like some little exclusive club that consists of about 10 people.
One odd thing about the production of this album is that it literally gives the impression like it was recorded in one day, in one clean sweep. Where each song molds into the next, only giving enough time to switch up the occasional effects pedal or whatever other insturment is being manipulated. And it has a good blend of sleek production without coming off as a big shot rock record. I can honestly not say that for many albums.
This record is scary. Not the face paint cookie cutter rebellion of Marilyn Manson style scary. I mean like that scene in Willy Wonka where they're going through the tunnel on the boat. Remember the look on Mr. Salt's face as Wonka was singing to images of chickens getting their heads cut off? Yeah, that's exactly the same feeling of awkwardness, and fright that this band can pull of with relative ease. But again, Ed Hall never takes themselves too seriously and that is the big selling point. They're a fun band who sadly got overshadowed by The Butthole Surfers. Sure they had a song in Linklaters 'SubUrbia', but I think that was partially due to it taken place in Texas.
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