Bags Fans Rejoice! This one's another classic...
Those rock fans who lived in Boston in the early 90s probably understand my excitement at the news that the legendary BAGS have finally completed their much-anticipated reunion Cd, “Sharpen Your Sticks.” For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, read on. You have a lot of learning to do.
Winners of the 1989 Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble (Boston’s famous battle of the bands), the BAGS were a heavy hitting power trio cranking out rock anthems about space cakes and atomic coconuts at a time when most bands were trying to be the next shoe-gazing Nirvana. After releasing three amazing albums (plus one album by their notorious alter ego, Swamp Oaf), the BAGS called it quits in 1991, some members staying in the world of rock (most notably, drummer Jim Janota joining aristocrat punks, THE UPPER CRUST), others heading off to parts unknown.
Flash forward to 2005 and this disc, which promptly returns the BAGS to their rightful place on the Beantown rock throne. Without any sign that 14 years have passed, the BAGS are back with another classic album of punk-infused metal riffs, bizarro lyrics, and monster vocals. The pace here is all adrenaline-rush, with the band rarely slowing it down beyond a Motorhead gallop. Think of an unholy 1975 collision of KISS and the RAMONES and you should have a sense of what to expect here. This is stripped down rock and roll, with heavy riffs, pounding drums, and wailing leads. As with all the BAGS albums, vocals are shared, often within the same song, by bassist Jon Hardy and guitarist Crispin Wood, who frequently trade off lines or alternate verses and choruses. Both voices are strong, with Hardy’s James Hetfield-esque growl nicely balancing Wood’s more nasally style. For the most part, though, it is Hardy who dominates this album, his commanding presence amplifying the aggressive riffs.
Standout tracks on this album include “Babbling Cadaver,” a double-kick drum propelled burner with some shredding guitar leads, “Cavemen Rejoice!”, a tale of Neanderthal man appropriately anchored by a lumbering monolithic riff, “Here Come The Creeps,” the best punk-metal song that Turbonegro didn’t write, and “Ivan the Terrible”, an anthemic ode to the notorious despot, who proclaims, “It aint easy being greedy and mean/Venting my spleen day and night/There may be men more handsome and smart/But I know in my heart that might is right.” Lyrically, the songs are characteristically off-the-wall and hilarious, though nothing here approaches the sheer genius of “L. Frank Baum,” their 1991 tribute to the author of The Wizard of OZ (from the album, “Night of the Corn People”). Best lines come from the tune “Gargoyle”: “You are a gargoyle/I am a troll/You’re ugly high/and I’m ugly low/You are immortal/I am a bum/A god of hunger/You drop a crumb/I’m nothing but a pigeon.” Stoopid genius, I tell ya.
Production-wise, everything is crystal clear, courtesy of long-time BAGS producer, Carl Plaster. Overdubs are kept to a minimum, and all songs have a loud and live feel to them, with the disc never letting up once for its entire 36-minutes. In fact, if I had to find one fault with the album, it would have to be that there is a certain amount of sameness to the tempos of the songs, a bit too much of their punky debut, “Rock Starve,” and not enough of the songwriting variety of their masterpiece, “Night of the Corn People.” But, hey, I aint complainin’. This is ROCK of the highest order, and fans of heavy music should take note. It would be a shame to keep this gem hidden away in the Boston rock scene, so start spreading the word….The BAGS are back!