When we think of misanthropic music, the first things to come to mind are probably punk, industrial-noise, and heavy metal. After all, their sounds are laden with aggressive, distorted guitars, and rhythms that bolster the music's lyrical vitriol. But the lilting, stumbling, amateurish country-blues of the Country Teasers proves that hate suits any genre. Not just another altcountry creation, Destroy All Human Life is a manifesto of misanthropy.
The unimposing, bespectacled Ben Wallers has sung in a surly, sleepy voice through the Scottish group's prolific 10-year history -- with many albums now out of print, an accurate discography is difficult to construct -- like a disoriented Mark E. Smith awakening from a blackout in a Deep South juke joint. On "Women and Children First," Wallers summarizes his casual depravity: "Pull your fucking triggers on the injuns, chinks and niggers/ Yids and queens and intellectuals/ Painters, poets and singers/ And the people with six fingers/ If it was up to me, I'd bring back B.C./ Where I knew, there is no moral rule." Tangled notes from hollowbody electric guitars and languid drum thwaps slither in agreement with Wallers' hate-filled proclamations.
The group insists that its country-cum-garage-rock music isn't ironic. Fine, but perhaps a tougher pill to swallow is the assertion that Wallers' lyrical goading is simply a sarcastic ruse. That's right -- like Lenny Bruce before him -- he's merely baiting the crowd. Wallers' put-on intends to challenge the value attributed to morality, to good and evil, and to human life itself. "Reynard the Fox" initiates the sardonic hatefest with a gleeful polka beat, saloon piano trills, and almost-tuned ringing guitars. Seemingly unaware of the happy-go-lucky tune, Wallers pitches his unseemly bait: "Women dressed in red be wary/ Red is the uniform of tarts." His sentiment grows progressively uglier and more misogynous from there.
You could argue, though, that Wallers is simply following artistic tradition. Transgressive art enjoyed a brief popularity in the film and music underground of the '80s, and in the politically correct '90s artists in the mainstream (South Park, Chris Rock) have begun to frolic in the fields of ironic nastiness -- not just to gingerly toss about extremist and violent pathological taboos, but to exorcise mistrust and clear the air by voicing all the nasty little thoughts we attempt to squelch.
None of which makes the Country Teasers sound any less bigoted and menacing, but their smirking delivery reveals the lyrics to be an indiscriminate jest. The band doesn't really hate humanity, only what its languages and cultures represent. Or, as Wallers blithely seethes on the album's title track, "There is no bias on my hate/ I will pick you all off as you leave the gate/ Destroy all human life."
-- Dave Clifford