Looks like former Wall of Voodoo leader Stan Ridgway (remember "Mexican Radio"?) has re-emerged from LA noir-rock obscurity just in time to lob a sarcastic musical hand grenade into a homeland secured by the smug likes of Tom Ridge and his little color codes. Worth the price for the song titles alone, Ridgway's vision of Babylon is drawn in daring, surly, slap-in-the-face Dada commentaries on the absurd ironies of modern life ("The AARP Is After Me") and twisted odes to Bush/Cheney/Rummie and the neocons like "Wargasm" ("I wanna have a wargasm. Now!").
Ridgway plays an army-band full of instruments, twists 40 million studio knobs, and sings like a man inhabited by extraterrestrials, backed up by the minimalist ensemble of wife Pietra Wexstun on all manner of keyboards and guitarist Rick King. The whole thing manages to sound like a full-blown Frank Zappa production on wack tracks like "Fortune Cookies" and "In Total Focus" and then ranges easily across early Beefheartian outer-space terrain on "The Alibi Room" and "Rain on Down." The band's seamless amalgam of noise rock, Tejano, funk, and country resembles some sort of über-cynical, Tom Waitsian, psychedelic dream on wicked sing-along ditties like "That's the Day They Buried the Pope" or the self-explanatory "Robbers & Bandits, Bastards & Thieves."
While most overtly political records are filled with tiresome clichés and smarmy groupthink do-gooder-isms (inevitably making for strained and tiresome listening) Barbeque Babylon is brain-gripping stuff. Ridgway's pièce de résistance is a splicing of George W. Bush utterances into a fake State of the Union message: In the opening we hear the President tell the assembly that "we meet every four years to threaten the world," and at another juncture he vows that "every schoolchild in America should have three nuclear missiles." This is political opera taken to its highest and most damning level. In fact, the record as a whole is so stout and anti-establishment, I'm surprised Bill O'Reilly hasn't dedicated several programs to decrying it. At the very least, Pat "I Know What The Lord Would Do" Robertson should've called for Ridgway's assassination by now. Still, if this album were presented as evidence at Ridgway's trial for sedition, it's doubtful the judge could keep a straight face while listening to it.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.