Now that recent reissues have adequately cemented the semi-legends of Cleveland proto-punk groups like Rocket From the Tombs and the Electric Eels, the logical next step is to bring the story up-to-date. Amoeba (Raft Boy) was the most recent (1996) musical project of John Morton, a hulking mountain of a man best known for his time in the Eels, that notorious crew of northern Ohio assholes who spent their six-gigs-in-three-years career creating an unparalleled cocktail of antisocial noise, garage fuzz, and sarcastic wit. Morton’s most notable Amoeba-mate was another former Eel, Paul Marotta, also the leader of two remarkable Cleveland ensembles, the Mirrors and the intermittently still-extant Styrenes.
With credentials like these, it’s not surprising that Bad Fuggum From the Mysterium is a blast. As the man most responsible for the Electric Eels’ mighty wall of trash, Morton exercised some of the most gorgeous axe abuse ever committed to tape, and it’s reassuring to learn that his signature wail remains intact. Similarly, the tunes themselves are steeped in some of that old Cleveland dementia that made the art-damaged work of Morton and Marotta’s previous groups so effective, though the vibe here is more bar-band-from-hell, as opposed to the Eels’ singularly audience-assaulting brand of terrorism.
That said, Morton’s originals come up short next to Love’s “7 & 7 Is” and the Pagans’ “Not Now No Way” and “Eyes of Satan,” all of which Amoeba covers; another highlight, “Heavy Streets,” turned up on a 1998 Styrenes album. But arguing with the judgments of one of America’s funniest and most uncompromising nihilists would be far out of my, or anyone’s, league, and it’s probably best to view Bad Fuggum for what it is—less a particular artistic statement than a postcard from Morton’s continuing journey into the farthest reaches of rock ‘n’ roll’s eternally enduring “fuck you” aesthetic.