Frank Zappa once asked if humor belonged in music. I didn’t stick around for the answer (I can only take that guy in REALLY small doses), so this month we’re going to let Snake Ranch & The Chill Dawgs figure it out.
The Chill Dawgs can be considered the house band of Dudes Mag, the long-running, ridiculous, scatological, pop-culture & pop-punk obsessed ‘zine put out by South Side drunk/pizza enthusiast Nighthawk. Much like Dudes Mag itself, though, there’s a lot more thought put into this record than one would expect. Is it funny? Well sure, of course. These are funny dudes. The five songs all have either “chill” or “dawg” in the title & the subject matters exclusively deal with partying and/or chilling. Thankfully the Dawgs take these dumb songs just seriously enough. The world is full of pop-punk with dumb lyrics, but is less full of pop-punk with dumb lyrics that’s crossed with sax-fuelled frat party rock (in the Animal House way, of course) played by a bunch of dudes who aren’t worried about throwing whatever dumb idea at the wall they come up with, because they’re good enough to make most of them stick. Record closer “Space Dawg,” for example, leaves the punk behind for unironic (I think) Flock Of Seagulls-y new wave, splicing in found sound/studio chatter about…stuff. This record shouldn’t be as good as it is!
Late 80’s/early 90’s East Side weirdos Snake Ranch also managed the tricky task of taking their music seriously while being complete clowns. Their 3 song 45 is bookended by the Public Enemy-quoting “Stop The Violence” and the tongue-in-cheek cautionary tale of “Mexian Crabdance,” the subject of which I believe Nighthawk may have also tackled in Dudes Mag. The standout track, however, is “Not The Hands.” History has not been kind to the punk/funk hybrid, but there was a time when there were some pretty great bands mining that territory & “…Hands” is a great example, blending funked out bass with Discord Records-style guitar to create a true gem. Check out the youtubes to see some classic footage of Snake Ranch at their dress-wearing goofy best. Does humor belong in music? Who cares? Since when has punk rock been about what belongs where?
Chill Dawgs-“Space Dawg”
Snake Ranch-“Not The Hands” live on cable access