Americans believe constipation to be a fearful evil. The superstition is dressed up in evening TV ads for psyllium that treat it as religion. Purges make one wholesome, and there can be nothing better in life than to be a laxative addict.
It was a belief while growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, too, and what the stiff-necked Pennsy Germans feared they wished upon others. As a consequence, shit jokes—specifically, those in which inferiors suffered the revenge of laxatives or brown-stained toilet paper pasted to the shoe—were a source of glee. Indeed, one of the favored local artists was a “Professor Schnitzel,” who recorded 45s of comedy routines sprinkled with such tales.
The Japanese metal band Bathtub Shitter are a natural antidote to Pennsy Dutch, striking the world’s heevahavas in their intellectual center, the bowels. Lyrics from Lifetime Shitlist are not the crazy Jap-lish they seem, instead employing themes of elimination as metaphors for life. “Persist poor shit” and “Breeze from the hole, snore of the God,” rants the singer; is it Shakespearean or just cookie monster metal growling?
A memory that has pursued me into middle age is one of sadism disguised as care by my mother. The damned woman became possessed of the idea that my brother refused the call of nature while playing outdoors. This led to fever, she insisted, so the common cold became an excuse to administer enemas, which generated screams—half in discomfort, half in humiliation.
The Bathtub Shitters know something like it. While nutbag vocal muttering is all over the record, part of the time the BS mouth is in a studio duet with an exaggeratedly childlike shrieker who sounds like my brother did, cowering in the bathroom.
A strong scent of ’80s Brit-midlands metal emanates from the band; BS cover Witchfinder General’s “No Stayer,” although the listener will have to know the original to recognize it without the cue card. Hell, Bathtub Shitter’s best numbers aren’t even extreme. The title track is pretty guitar chamber music, pinched from some source I can’t precisely identify. It’s immediately trumped by a hot r&b riff, “Escapism to Refresh,” one of this year’s better metallized grooves.
Bathtub Shitter want you to regain “Control of Own Hole,” good advice for a citizenry more interested in minding everyone else’s. “Sober lifes will stop [the] bowels” is another shot at an American shibboleth—temperance, this time as a complement to regular cleansings. Perhaps BS describes your life. Would I shit you?