Phil Irwin’s Web diary is tops: No blog amenities, just raw text delivering flying spittle on life as a wage slave, competitive chess player, and angry brute. Read it and you’ll be ready for the Rancid Vat retrospective, The Rest of the World vs. Rancid Vat. A selection of nasty rock ‘n’ roll, emphasis on the dictionary definition of
nasty, it’s offensive, unpleasant, and malicious. Decades ago Vat’s “The Ballad of Brigham Young” was taboo, asking why Hitler didn’t win, rhyming that with “original sin”; if it hadn’t been on a record that was hardly ever in stores, arrest warrants would have been sworn out in Germany and Austria. Rancid Vat sound perfect for Frank Zappa’s Diskreet label, sitting naturally between homeless bum Wild Man Fischer and Alice Cooper throwing chickens and feather pillows into the audience. Unfortunately, Vat came too late and, by default, settled for silk-screening their LP covers.
Starting in Portland and now in Texas, the band also called Philadelphia home, not to mention “Hostile City U.S.A.” Hostile maybe, but the irritation there produced a bang-up performance of Black Oak Arkansas’s “Hot & Nasty” and another about beatings, “Loser Leave Town.” Rancid Vat write from a physical perspective, the administration of sleeper holds and forearm smashes. So the spirits of blood-and-sweat-stained canvas wrestling mat and salt for your eyes are constants, courtesy of titling and a resurrection of a tune by heel-playing grappler Beauregard.
Much less life-as-struggle is We’ve Forgotten More Than You’ll Ever Know by Johnny Casino’s Easy Action, a band featuring an ex-member of Rancid Vat. A squad of tattoo artists does old-timey grease chain rave-ups, with rhythm guitar more gutsy than the standard, and hooks furnished by enthusiastic backing vocals. “Roy the Boy” does a boogie twist and the Pretty Things’ “Midnight to Six Man” is excellent. Steel Cage publishes at least a couple records a year like this and damned if they go anywhere but into collections of the hygiene challenged, since soon-to-be career women only loosen up enough to enjoy this when wrecked and downstanding. Johnny Casino needs to get on bills with sharp-lookers like the Sirens or play upper-middle-class booze orgies in really white locales like Santa Barbara and State College. Half-measures in dives lead only to burnout.