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This is an irony-free recording.” So reads the disclaimer on Why I Hate Women, the latest diatribe from Cleveland’s longest- running art-rock band named after Jarry’s Ubu Roi. They mean what they say and they say what they mean. In 1976, David Thomas introduced himself to the world by puncturing a lung to the mangled tune of the Eddie Cochran hit “Summertime Blues”; while most kids his age were pining for Dad’s car keys, Thomas was insisting, with a healthy dose of irony, “We don’t need a cure/We need a final solution!” Still, he meant it.
Now, 30 years later, Thomas’s trademark vocal exercises—moaning cadavers and rockabilly bards on morphine come to mind—haunt a tableau of perfectly agitated lock grooves and weighty dirges. “Thelma’s in Houston is closed on Sunday/The best catfish in the state of Texas,” Thomas mumbles, in character, over a crunchy western guitar riff on “Texas Overture.” With a Tom Waits–lite drawl, Thomas enumerates a number of local delicacies, from whole chicken to half-chicken to green beans, then avers, “Texas is the land of the free.” Don’t ask what that means, but whatever it means, it’s not ironic.