Alt trash sophistication: Acid Bath and Pist.On

To compare both these artists to Type O Negative would be unfair. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do all the same. Pist.On often get named in the same sentence as Type O simply because they came from the same area, at the same time, and they went for a similar kind of gothed up alt rock pleasingly subversive tone as the drab four. But the comparison stops there. Oh and Josh Silver produced their debut LP ‘Number One’ (1996).

Louisiana’s Acid Bath on the other hand arguably bear more similarities, at least in their general approach to crafting an album. One that pretends at one thing but is actually another. Their second effort, ‘Paegan Terrorism Tactics’ (1996) melds a multitude of styles from sludge, to grunge, to hardcore punk, to doom, and across an album that stretches well over an hour they produce a disjointed yet ambitious anthology of these various styles. They also mix in a healthy dose of black humour into the pot for good measure as only mid-1990s alt-rock can.

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I call this alt rock in the broadest possible sense, simply because it touches on so many styles along the way the appeal of this album is pretty broad. Sure there’s plenty of heavy sludge and doom riffs, but the album is produced to be more on trend for the dirty, grungy aesthetic of the mid-1990s. And indeed it’s the raw energetic drums, the lo-fi distortion on the guitars, and the Layne Staley esque croonering that holds this album together as a cohesive whole across its one hour plus run time.

The end result is undoubtably chimerical however, with little discipline in dispensing of tracks or transitions that do not work. There is also the inevitable kooky interludes which only serve to irritate after repeated listens. The frustration comes from the fact that when Acid Bath do commit to one style or another they really do excel at it. This is more a case of jack of all trades really quite good at very many of them. But I have repeated on many occasions my distaste for lengthy albums that do little to justify the length. And it is undeniable that ‘Paegan Terrorism Tactics’ could do with some strimming. But it does not take the piss. There is enough music to warrant an expanded runtime.

Pist.On offer a much more straight forward approach. To call them watered down Type O would be somewhat unfair, there’s plenty going on here that is all their own. This album is so 90s it almost hurts. It’s an interesting blend of Pantera esque groove (shudder) on the one hand, and 90s melodic alt rock on the other. There’s even a cover of The Smiths ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’ thrown in for good measure. It’s irresistibly catchy, but with a liberal dose of over the top emotional angst common for period thrown in for good measure. This is something which many find off-putting. Especially when considering the fact that it is relentlessly American.

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Beyond that there’s not much more to say. A time capsule of hidden gems for those that simply cannot get enough of nostalgia? Or a perfect balancing act of heavy, groovy doom and pop rock sensibilities? This sits somewhere between the two. The thing I do find interesting is why Type O Negative took off when Pist.On did not. Someone once told me that for every artist that ‘made it’ there was another better, more underground artist of the same stripe that never quite broke at the same time. Whilst there is a truth to this, I would say that there are at least ten artists for every one that ‘made it’. Pist.On did not deserve fame any more than anyone else at the time, and being vaguely similar to a big artist from the same area of the world really has nothing to do with why they never broke. A bland follow up probably did not help their future trajectory.

So here we have it. Two albums, one a grunge album pretending to be sludge. Another a pop album pretending to be alt rock. But both excel so well at what they are doing that this hardly counts as a criticism. This makes it a shame that both were short lived flames. But for shear gall and re-listenability ‘Number One’ is my pick of the week. It is well crafted pop rock that is heavy and doomy enough in places to get the blood pumping, but with enough variation and melody to offer intrigue. ‘Paegan Terrorism Tactics’ is a fine album, but it slips just beyond the line of pretension into demanding too much of the listeners attention beyond what they are actually offering musically. Something many releases of the time were guilty of, when sarcasm and dead pan humour was pervasive in alt rock.

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