A stark white album cover with some spots of blood and a tooth. Simplistic font with the name of the album and the band name. Song titles as funny and dark as they are long. An abrasive tone and style wholly their own and introspective, pensive, yet upfront and in-your-face lyrics that equally cause one to think what the singer is talking about, but know that the dude, and the band, are pissed off. Drowningman’s second proper LP Rock and Roll Killing Machine has all of this and more, creating an album that is at times beautiful, sarcastically funny, and scalding like acid.
The band, at the time when this dropped, had released an debut EP (Weighted and Weighed Down), a proper LP (Busy Signal At The Suicide Hotline), and another EP (How They Light Cigarettes In Prison) before releasing this monster album in September of 2000. The band had always had a revolving door of musicians, creating havoc and worry for the record companies looking to release albums by them, with the only mainstay being that of singer Simon Brody.
I had found out about this band in college, where my yo-yo champion friend Ben was working the local record store and had received a copy of this album, as well as the next EP Still Loves You… and had it on constant rotation at the store. (The town I went to college in used to be awesome for music, as there were stores that would order records for you before the webernets paid off big and there was soon no need for a middle man. The local record store constantly played and suggested music that was not to be found on Top 40 radio or classic rock, and consistently had a great selection of awesome shit that my cohorts and I used to mine repeatedly. Such a weird gem to be found among the snow and generally conservative reality that is Northern New York.) My love for extremes (you see what I did there right) and curious need to sate my thirst for new bands made me pick these albums up.
Needless to say the rest is history. Rock and Roll Killing Machine entered my CD player and it didn’t leave for quite a while. The combination off-kilter dissonance, abrasive riffs, the quick tempo and constant changes, along with lyrics that were smart and complex, but with no subtlety hit me in the gut. The album starts and doesn’t let go, show a band with a sense of humor, albeit the gallows type, that had to point out the fallacies in everything from personal ideals and relationships to humanity as a whole.
The song titles…did I mention the song titles. Oh…the early 2000’s with their wit and sarcasm. This album hit the spot for me ( I tried to start a band called Menendez Family Reunion…it didn’t take). Song titles on this are gold though, going from short and to the point (“When People Become Numbers“) to hilariously long (“Last Week’s Minutes From The Secret Society of Friends Who Actually Hate You“, “This Years Most Fashionable Signs Of Weakness“), to just plain funny (“My First Restraining Order” ” If God Loves A Winner, He’s Gonna Wanna Fuck Me In A Minute“).
While that type of thing is good for a laugh, the songs did them justice. The lyrics are tied to the songs themselves and make sense and work with the titles (“My First Restraining Order” is a good example of this). The vocals also work with the music as well and with the songs, as it seems that most of the album’s songs are double tracked, creating a weird, off-kilter feeling for each song, yet not out of place at all. They showcase a band and a man who has had enough bullshit and is pretty much fed up to the point of going off.
All in all, this album is a perfect storm of calamity, anger, hatred, and humor. Drowningman was fairly large in their hey day, but ultimately succumbed to inner turmoil, changes in personnel and multiple other charges ( I saw them at Hellfest with their original guitarist when they “reformed.” I then saw them a couple of months later, without the guitarist, and Simon with a broken hand stating he literally “kicked his ass and then kick him out for drug use.”) The band randomly gets together and plays, but, unlike this album, they have not aged gracefully. This album needs to be name-dropped more often as an influence and influential album, and continues to be downplayed in the long run by…well…almost everyone. Detractors can fuck off for all I care, because this machine kills fascists, and also still loves you.