New Bomb Turks
Pissing Out the Poison

Before punk rock found new digs on the Billboard album chart, it was the provincial music of outcasts and miscreants who had little interest in (let alone a chance in hell of attaining) the massive fame and success awarded to the likes of Offspring, Green Day, et al. New Bomb Turks, from Columbus, Ohio, remember a time when the music was hard, fast, a little sleazy, and catchy as hell. For the last five or so years, the Turks have cranked out that kind of punk over the course of two brilliant albums (1993's Destroy-Oh-Boy and last year's Information Highway Revisited), about a dozen singles, two EPs, and innumerable compilation cuts, all of which expand the sonic possibilities of punk and bring a passion and a flair to the music that's all too absent both in the platinum arena of the dye-jobbed poster boys and the underground in which the Turks dwell.

Pissing Out the Poison rounds up 26 of the band's stray tracks -- from their 1991 debut shot ("Tail Crush") to some previously unissued demos -- with a remastering job that greatly improves upon the crappy fidelity of the original singles. It's an amazing compendium, full of meaty guitar riffs and frantic tempos that, surprisingly, never trample over the lyrics of vocalist Eric Davidson, whose political concerns are as much emotional ("Last Lost Fight," "Girl Can Help It") as they are social ("Pist," "Sucker Punch"). And unlike too many of their hardcore peers, the Turks are well-versed in the punk-rock verities: Witness the ace covers of Radio Birdman's "Do the Pop," Nervous Eaters' "Just Head," and the New York Dolls' "Bad Girl." They're also clever enough to revive lost gems from the most unlikely sources (e.g., their blazing takes on the Rolling Stones' "Summer Romance" and Hawkwind's "Ejection"). And, just in time for the holidays, there's a breakneck rendering of Darlene Love's seasonal standard "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."

Even better is the band's "Croonin' [nee Cryin'] Into the Beer of a Drunk Man," an almost graceful version of one of their earliest songs, culled from a European radio broadcast. It's no doubt too slow for the boys in the pit, but "Croonin'" proves that, beyond Jim Weber's wall of guitar, the furious rhythm section, and Davidson's bug-eyed vocals, this band writes great songs that work wonders at any speed.

-- John Floyd

Tab Benoit
Standing on the Bank

Fans of the guitar-hero blues-rock genre will find plenty of reasons to prostrate themselves on Tab Benoit's Standing on the Bank. Fans of authentic blues, however, will find plenty of reasons to mutter about the state of blues today, and then retreat back into their record collections.

Benoit is a fine, muscular guitar player, and there are moments here when he approaches blues veracity: the original Fifties stroll-styled "If I Could Quit You," and a cover of the slow-burning Albert King staple "Laundromat Blues." Full of blues feeling is the spare "Still Going Down the Road," an original blues rambler in the Robert Johnson mode that features only guitar and miked boot stomps.

However, Benoit has a typical white-guy bluesman wanna-be voice, with his singing sometimes approaching parody. He also seems to have an annoying addiction to boogie beats, which makes Standing a rather tedious listen at times. Even the presence of Buddy Guy sidemen Ray "Killer" Allison on drums and Greg Rzab on bass does little to help, nor does a duet with Willie Nelson rescue it from being a supreme yawner. (If anything, Nelson's effortless croon puts Benoit's strained machismo to shame.) You know you're in for a long ride when an album actually makes you nostalgic for ZZ Top. Geez, those guys made it sound so easy.

-- Bob Weinberg

Tab Benoit performs at the Musicians Exchange, 729 W Sunrise Blvd, Ft Lauderdale, tonight (Thursday) at 8:30 and 10:30. Tickets are $10. Call 764-1912.

Ian Hunter
Dirty Laundry
(Cleveland International Records)

Ian Hunter was alternative before alternative was, as it's spelled nowadays, kool. A quarter of a century ago, while the music world was still grooving on Woodstock's lingering, illusory vibes of peace, love, and happiness forever, Hunter and his working-class bandmates in Mott the Hoople were clearing a path for punk with a rollicking mix of basic Chuck Berry-ish riffs, dark humor, and an anarchic world-view that reached its peak with the rave-up "Violence," from the band's classic 1973 album Mott. The group imploded a few albums later, but some of Hunter's best work still lay ahead. He hooked up with ex-Bowie axman Mick Ronson and forged on through the end of the Seventies, delivering hard-rock gems ("Once Bitten Twice Shy," "Just Another Night"), smart, brutally personal ballads ("Irene Wilde," "Ships"), and nearly everything in between. He delivered them all in an abrasive Cockney croak, despite the encroaching efforts of record companies to pass off cream-puff bands with helium-voiced front men as rock and roll.

His output tailed off in the 1980s, but throughout his career, Hunter's best work has come when he seems to have hit rock bottom, either emotionally or professionally. Maybe it was the death of Ronson last year, but Dirty Laundry A Hunter's first album in six years A ranks squarely among his finest efforts. The opening track, "Dancing on the Moon," bristles with sinewy guitars, a tinkling piano, and a soulful, gospel-tinged chorus. As the tempo shifts from a bruising barroom stomp to a hypnotic groove, and Hunter howls his way through the frenzied closing, you realize this is the type of smoky lounge standard the Rolling Stones have been trying to record for almost two decades.

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