The Easy Surrealists
Country Teasers Put Conformity Out to Pasture
Tues Jan 13, Graceland, 9:30 pm, $7.
Picture, if you will, the set of a timeless Western. Off-color, with slurred British cowboys slumped over cocktails of the liquid and prescription persuasion. Their ringleader, BR Wallers, turns around, sporting a tattered sports coat, and warns the women not to wear red, the "uniform of the tarts." He's the lone ranger, lassoing sacred cows with his flat, dry delivery--looping nooses around race relations, gender dynamics, and sexual positions, and then tugging until onlookers either roll their eyes in discomfort or squeal with demented delight.
In this vision, an old television set flickers with images of civilization, a tennis match between two young women. Wallers stares at the nubile bodies on the screen, runs his tongue along his cheek, and then barks, "Anna Kournikova was thirteen years old when she entered the world of sex--I mean success." Affecting a heart swollen with desire, the balladeer switches tracks, coyly serenading--"It's very cold outside but you have a warm vagina/May I overnight lay my penis inside ya?"--while the twiddling of radio knobs heightens the noise of static in the room.
This is the cracked globe of Country Teasers, a band of outsiders from London/Edinburgh who live in the lap of "ludditism." Accordingly, the beauty in their music seems to have sprung from the clutter in a dusky antique shop, with beats alternately like clacks from a rusty typewriter and claps of tin kitchenware--distorted, muffled, and swollen out of their original sonic structure. Keyboards morph into B-movie laser battles, and primitive sound effects are created with birds and jugs as angular guitars jerk the melodies into the 21st century.
The rootsy post-punk of Country Teasers is as close to "country" as Camper Van Beethoven ever got, but more akin to the psychedelic sense of the word, with a wide musical landscape, and snotty narration flowering from seeds sown in the language of William Burroughs. The Teasers don't care about marrying the rural corners of skate punk and surf rock like CBV did--they're more an amalgamation of the darker crevices of punk electronics and folk rock. Wallers (also a member of Male Nurse), says his musical goals are a little more cerebral than simply spoiling genres. "I don't aim to do anything [specific]," he writes (the band adheres to a strictly e-mail interview format). "I sort of just spray as much as I can all around the bowl, in the hope that some of it is good enough to go in--I mean the bowl of the receptive human mind, the collective subconscious." Inspired by the Fall, Pussy Galore, and the Butthole Surfers, the Teasers have released six albums since forming in 1993, losing money for labels as varied as Crypt and Fat Possum. They're currently working with In the Red, which released their latest distorted masterpiece, Secret Weapon Revealed at Last, an album boasting song titles like "Young Mums Up for Sex" and "Man V Cock." (In the Red's Larry Hardy says that he was impressed by the Teasers' "brilliant lyrics" and "noble strides in recording techniques.")
Wallers adds, "We are a classic example of a band who failed, again and again, for the record company that released it. Those guys took a risk on a band they liked, and it fucking did nowt but lose them money!! And I should be grateful, and I'm not, I'm disappointed and still arrogant!" Nonetheless, he's sticking with the indies, adding, "There's plenty of good music being made without the major labels. They really should die, and the little labels really should prosper. But since the days of the Carter Family this fucking industry has been about the bigger dollar. Fucking cunts! They ruined it."
The Teasers spokesman says that he's very bitter about the way music "went all heavy and goth" in the late '90s, and that he wanted to expand into a sound like Radiohead and Godspeed You Black Emperor, but those other bands beat him to it. "Extreme becoming standard also freaked me out," he says of the trends in skewing standard genres. "I think I got over it though; you can always fall back on the Monty Pythonian English character--you know, the easy surrealist--when you can't get anything extreme."