Good to the Last Drop… of Bong Water
Coming shortly after the early-2012 release, Bag of Hammers, Texas-based garage misfits Linus Pauling Quartet have done an epic work in unleashing Assault on the Vault of the Ancient Bong Lords, a very limited-run box set—55 units total!—joyously dressed as a workable Dungeons and Dragons-style “module,” which is geek–speak for a pre-scripted, multi-adventure RPG—in this case entirely imagined by the band, right down to custom character sheets, maps and plot points. By the way, there’s music, too!
And lots of it. This princely three-disc anthology, which is also available as a digital download, spans nearly two decades of the band’s magickal history, from their early adventures with Immortal Chinese Classics Music (1995), all the way to their second-most recent quest, Horns of Ammon (2010). Various rarities, singles and unreleased live sets have also been thrown in the overnight satchel, some more useful than others. For instance, the live take, “Jason Bill,” bristles with a lovely country drone, but either due to bad mic’ing or mixing, the vocals range from murky to incomprehensible. Granted, the LP4 are often very loud performers, but there’s a difference between the singer being consciously veiled and effectually blotted out, which, unfortunately, is the case a number of times throughout Assault.
Nonetheless, the group’s jocular manner, bong-water riffs and skillful soloing yield more than enough glittering coins, including “Drunkest Man,” an alcoholic rocker swinging with T-shirt-soaked aggression, the get-what-you-paid-for craziness of “Roll out the Bong”—which freely quotes Sabbath’s timeless MJ ode, “Sweet Leaf”—and “Dartania,” a hazy, instrumental psych number coming off like a snail’s trek through Bong Smoke Forest. In case you haven’t noticed already, it’s pretty fair to say this is beers-and-weed music, but at the same time, the LP4 are no strangers to an unforeseen excursion or two—and it’s their talent as musicians that helps them negotiate MC5-style blues rock, shoegaze and even the humorous, mock-toughness of the Melvins, sometimes all in the same song.
Pinnacle tracks include “Hawg!”—an almost eleven-minute motorcycle burnout of smoking guitars and pill-popping lust—and opener “Hamburger Girl,” a jangling, mid-tempo ode to that McDonald’s waitress you always wondered about. The song’s character study format, hot-boxing rhythm and unstudied vocals make it an endearing mash-up of the Butthole Surfers and Velvet Underground. Assault isn’t a perfect listen, however. Weaker tracks such as “Penis Free Zone,” a poorly mixed cowboy sendup, as well as the possibly too silly “Vman”—’cause the V stands for “vegetable”—have a way of pulling down the average a bit. Still, in the end, singer–guitarist Clinton Heider and and the guys were prolly hella wasted during the time, so fair is fair. Also, you may be too busy leveling up and taking on the Ancient Bong Lords—not too mention being pretty herbed-up yourself—for any of the sloppier cuts to harsh your mellow.