Sunday, 8 January 2017

Craveman - Ted Nugent

Provenance: Back in the day it took a whole night to illegally download a couple of tunes off Napster, and there was literally no guarantee that they file you'd found corresponded to what actually ended up playing from your speakers. We're talking about a time when people would list 'surfing the net' as a hobby.

A lesser remembered feature of Napster was the ability to send messages to other users. One morning I came downstairs to find an American guy was downloading an Alice Cooper track from my account. During a brief exchange he recommended three artists to me - Bob Seger, Molly Hatchet and Ted Nugent.

A couple of evenings later I had a single song by each artist - 'Old Time Rock and Roll' by Seger (eh), 'Flirtin' With Disaster' by Molly Hatchet (cool as hell) and 'Free For All' by the Nuge (ditto). At this point in life I knew not who Ted Nugent was or what he professed the finer things in life to be, and thus felt no compunction in purchasing Cat Scratch Fever. Not long after, I think my parents got me this for Christmas.

Review: I'd love to be able to sit here and put aside the fact that Ted Nugent is one of the more choice individuals out there, and instead focus exclusively on the merits and demerits of the album. I really wanted to do it, because (whisper it) I quite like some of his early stuff. You could, if you're a desperate guy trying to cling onto the tatters of your fandom, try to argue that the rampant machismo and unabashed objectification of women were merely poses, or the facets of a hyper-real performative entity like an Alice Cooper or the guys in KISS (who weren't actually demons or space aliens, I was surprised to read). The problem here is that many have accused Nugent directly of worse things than reductive and sexist portrayals of women within the context of musical performances.

The second problem is that on Craveman the two public faces of Ted Nugent - the one who writes literary masterpieces such as 'Wang Dang Sweet Poontang' and 'Motor City Madhouse' - and the one that rants almost incoherently on conservative talk radio about hunting, immigrants and firearms, have come together in unholy confederacy. His rancid and retrograde views pollute almost every corner and crevice of this album. Here's a sample lyric from (shit) opening track 'Klstrphnky':

Look at all the dirty nookie!
Keep that shit away from me!
Do you think I'm kinda kooky? (I can't even stand to looky)
It's all infected HIV!

If that's not tasteless enough for you, don't worry - Ted signs off from 'Klstrphnky' with the immortal line "Well I'm the world's biggest nigga, and all you dirty whiteys suk!" (sic). Nothing else reaches quite that level of offensiveness; nevertheless, here are a few couplets that somehow eluded Shakespeare:

"My ballz drip catnip / No shit bullshit" ('Pussywhipped')
"I wasn't afraid of your lightning baby, your thunder was a part of me / I'd dance with the devil at midnight maybe, your threat is a catastrophe" ('I Won't Go Away')
"My baby likes my frosting on her cake / I put the caffeine back in her beans" ('My Baby Likes My Butter On Her Gritz', an entire track of sub-'Sex Farm' metaphor salad)

Then we've got the big boy braggadocio of 'Rawdogs & Warhogs' which is all pathetic flag waving and how "I'm ready to fight, just pick a night, here I come!" - except that when the US draft in effect during the Vietnam War did 'pick a night', Nugent may have taken some fairly drastic measures to ensure he stayed out of that particular pagga. Whether or not Nugent did soil himself in public to avoid Vietnam, the fact remains that he exclusively shoots at things that are unable to fire back. Bravery comes in many guises, I guess.

The real frustration is that behind the blather (the lyrics are either moronic or incoherent) there is a kernel of a good hard rock album. Nugent is a good guitarist with a keen ear for a tasty hook, exemplified best by 'Crave', an exhilarating head-rush with a spiralling riff to rival Motley Crue's 'Girls, Girls, Girls'. Elsewhere, subtract the lyrics and 'Rawdogs & Warhogs' is a fine update of Nugent's own 'Workin' Hard, Playin' Hard'. Once again, mute the singing and 'Pussywhipped' is a rollicking stomper of a tune. There are bits and pieces throughout Craveman that remind you of why Ted Nugent was able to sell millions and pack out stadiums, but much else to make you wish it was he, and not Frank Zappa, who released an album titled Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar. Doubly so because the instrumental 'Earthtones' is quite lovely.

However, in a business where success can be fleeting, you could suggest that Nugent has been shrewd enough to parlay his simplistic, ignorant and inconsistent worldview into a second career as a conservative talking head. Thanks to his pungent and frequently expressed views the chickens may be coming home to roost on his performing career, but that's not likely to unduly trouble a man of his stripe. It's a real shame that Craveman is so imbued with Nugent's sub-Pithecanthropoid politics that the experience becomes something close to unpalatable. I wasn't expecting the lyrical embodiment William F Buckley, but this crap is just insulting. Then again, ol' Bill Buckley never could crank out 'Stranglehold' in front of thousands at the Cobo Hall, so I'll give that one to the Nuge.

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