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Boxcar Satan - DVD / CD Review

by Gary Schwind

Boxcar Satan - No One at the Wheel (DVD) & Boxcar Satan / Graves Brothers Deluxe - Black Water Rising (CD)

I have a confession. I don't get music videos. I have grown up in the video era, but somehow I just don't get them. I find videos actually distract from the music because instead of focusing on the music, I focus on the visual image that goes with it. And that's generally not a good thing because my usual response to videos is, "What was that all about?"

I found myself asking that question several times when watching this DVD. Take the video for "Calamity Jones" for instance. It alternates between shots of the band on a railroad track, three vagrants passing a bottle beside the tracks, and a woman in cowboy boots walking down the tracks. The climax of the video is that the woman tapes a picture of Jesus (with a black eye) to a kick drum.

The videos are definitely memorable. In "Pig in a Dress," people come to a carnival attraction (a pig in a dress) and get utterly freaked out, to the point that some of them pass out. In another video, a guy that looks sort of like Rob Zombie drives a van to a hotel, breaks into a room, strangles a woman, wraps her in a sheet and throws her in the back of a van. Perhaps you can see now why some of these videos left me scratching my head. Which is a shame, really, because the music is good. Boxcar Satan plays a raw style of music that is one part punk, one part beat poetry, one part roots rock, and one part noise.

The DVD also includes video of a live performance in San Antonio. The band doesn't cheat anyone with its live performance, I can tell you that. Each of the three guys in the band works up quite a sweat as they perform. Their style is an all-out assault on their instruments. The best example of this comes at the end of their set, when the singer jumps down from the stage, and rolls on the ground, using an audience member's crutch like a slide on his strings.

Black Water Rising is what in days past would have been a split 7". It features two songs from both Boxcar Satan and Graves Brothers Deluxe. Each band covers one of the other band's songs as well as a cover of some other artist. For a four-song EP, this features a lot of energy. Each band plays a frenetically paced kind of noisy roots rock. On this EP, each band also covers a song by another artist. Graves Brothers Deluxe covers "Don't You Just Know It" by Huey "Piano Smith. They seem to have as much fun with this tune as Dr. John when he performed it. When Boxcar Satan covers "Legs Rub Together" by Graves Brothers Deluxe, it sounds like vintage Tom Waits for nearly three minutes, then it sounds like something more akin to Clutch. All in all, it's a great listen, but far too short.

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