Ya, it’s me - I’m back. I thought I’d turn y’all onto something cool that some of you might not know about. Nope, I’m not talking about DEF LEPPARD’s High and Dry. I’m talking about the mighty KILLDOZER, a noisy, dirgey Wisconsin trio who refused to accept life in the straightjacket of post-punk correctness, settled for inventing grunge, and dropped off the face of the earth.
Like any band or recipe, the nuanced flavor of KILLDOZER comes from a particular set of ingredients, but there’s always an essence, and in KILLDOZER the essence is Michael “Mr. Romance” Gerald. Like MOTORHEAD, the singing bass player captains the ship.
And the similarities don’t stop there, b/c, like Lemmy, Gerald is very disappointed by his fellow man. We’re not talking teen nihilist “everyone burn in hell, and I’ll unload my uzi while listening to Nine Inch Nails” fantasies, but the Jonathan Swift-ian “I’d take you all out with my shotgun, but I don’t want the jail time, and actually you disappoint me so much it’s not even worthwhile for me to go to the gun shop” hatred of mankind. Like your dad picking you up from the police because you shoplifted. You know, “maybe one day you’ll get your shit together, but we can’t even infer that result right now because there’s absolutely no evidence of it.” Misanthropy with a chaser of despair.
But there’s always humor. And Gerald’s tunes are hilarious. They make me laugh more than most any other. First person rants by morons we somehow know well. In “Porky’s Dad,” Porky’s dad grabs you by the shirt and corners you with “I understand you are a friend of Peter’s… we got trouble on the farm.” Check out this podcast from a couple years back on WMFU. A narrator babbling about Flannery O’Connor, lupus, and “movin up north where the Negroes are feistier / he had a neighbor that looked like Sidney Poi-tee-er.” "The King of Sex" comes from the “mighty and glorious state of Texas…they make us big down in the state of Texas.” Neil Diamond can’t decide whether to live in New York or LA, and with a narcissistic 70s dude’s solipsism (foretelling exactly why herpes had to spread far and wide), he screams “I am, I said … to no one THERE!”
KILLDOZER is known for their silly covers, Gerald’s early proto death metal growl and the band’s half speed dirge. But their covers aren’t where the action is. There’s a reason their covers album is called For Ladies Only. The real KILLDOZER exists in “Cotton Balls”, “Lupus” and “New Pants and Shirt.” Paranoid screeds about country folk who could really fuck you up. (Gerald knows he’s a lot more likely to die on a farm than in L.A., so he chooses to live in the City of Devils with an anonymous existence as a tax lawyer. I’m not kidding.)
On the last two KILLDOZER studio albums, they brought in a new guitarist named Paul something or other. He was more melodic than his predecessor Bill Hobson, whose brother Dan still played drums. The first “new lineup” KILLDOZER album (Uncompromising War On Art Under The Dictatorship Of The Proletariat) had a couple of epics deserving of mention in any year’s “best of” list. I.e., “The Pig Was Cool” and “Knuckles The Dog.” It’s a post-punk Communist Manifesto (or anti-Communist Manifesto) that extols “the good capitalist” Earl Schieb and blasts Sam Walton – “The Enemy of the People.”
In “The Pig,” we learn about the cop that you “knew from school.” He looks like he’s gonna bust you but really just wants to hit you up for a Mickey’s Big Mouth and a rip on your bong. The Pig shows up outside your van down by the creek, as well as at a JOURNEY show – just as the band plays “Wheel In The Sky.” If you have any roots in small-town America, you know this guy. He was a fuckup selling joints made of leaves and stems. Now he’s a cop. And he wants to be your buddy and you’re fucked because he’ll throw you in jail if you don’t hang with him.
“Knuckles the Dog” is a full on dog love saga that pukes all over Elvis’s “Old Shep.” In this tune, the narrator--a “blind and palsied boy, condemned to life in this wheelchair” (man, I wish I had come up with that)-- adopts an aging greyhound named Knuckles. Knuckles refuses to hunt and “respects all forms of life.” He visits the elderly who are “abandoned by their own children.” Finally, an insurance company assassin tries to take out the kid to get him off the payroll, but Knuckles takes the bullet for the kid and dies. I cry whenever I think of St. Knuckles.
But that’s just my subjective view. Objectively, one thing to know about the ‘DOZER is that they basically invented grunge. Everyone was playing fast, so they played slow. Maybe they heard a FLIPPER album somewhere. Or maybe they were an organic midwestern phenom. In any event, they started to record in Madison, WI, with a guy named Butch Vig. Some dudes from Sub Pop liked the Killdozer sound, and sent their bands east to record with Vig. One of those bands was called Nirvana. A lot of people (not Killdozer) made a lot of money later.
KILLDOZER are still actively not making money. They aren’t really a functioning band, and they aren’t hankerin' to be one. Their records might be available on Touch & Go, but they might not. iTunes is the safest bet if you gotta have some KILLDOZER. THE JESUS LIZARD wanted them to open on one of their reunion shows, but the rumor is that the “incentives” were not right. I guess playing for Dave Navarro just doesn’t get Gerald’s nipples hard.
The bottom line is that, if you haven’t already, you should acquaint yourself with the KILLDOZER-oeuvre. KILLDOZER would have been an absolutely huge band were it not for the fact that humans won’t spend money to hear the truth – especially about themselves.