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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Suburban Mutilation: The Opera Ain’t Over Til the Fat Lady Sings (Beer City)

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By the time Green Bay’s Suburban Mutilation released their only album in 1984, their most notorious member, Norb Rozek (Rev. Norb), had already become an international hardcore punk celebrity. His often hilarious, always eye-catching fanzine, Sick Teen, was a precedent to The Opera Ain’t Over Til The Fat Lady Sings, just as the album itself could be seen as a complement to it, even if Rozek wasn’t responsible for all its vocals or lyrics.

His screwy wit informs the album’s observations of disaffected restlessness in Northeastern Wisconsin. Thirty years on from its original release, prolific Milwaukee label Beer City’s CD reissue posits Opera as a complement to the recent Rozek autobiography-cum-lyrics book for his later, poppier punk band, Boris the Sprinkler. Thirty bonus tracks beyond the LP’s original 17 songs give perspective on a trio of teens working out their muse within their makeshift studios in the Rozek family basement and garage. Contrasting the exuberant muddiness of those demos is the clarity of Rozek’s liner-note chronicle of the band. He’s rather transparent about his feelings about the death of an early band mate; he’s at least as revealing about the naiveté of young punk rockers jumping headlong into the esoterica of the pre-Internet record-making process and difference between hearing their work through home stereo speakers and those bigger ones where they laid their tracks.

Musically and lyrically, the results are certainly of their era: buzz saw guitar with endearing whack solos and rat-a-tat drumming form the canvas for songs parodying U.S. involvement in El Salvador and the eternal hardcore wellspring of emphatically not giving a crap. Rozek’s liner notes and the band’s covers of Jan & Dean, Everly Brothers and Hank Ballard give clues to Boris’ later, more purposefully tuneful ditties. It holds up well as a historical document whose snotty energy and abundant personality transcend its initial milieu.