By Kyle Harcott
Whenever things might threaten to get stale, along comes a band like Oaf to wake you up, slap you around a bit, and remind you that not everything has to sound the samey-same out there. Their first full-length, Botheration, is rife with wink-nudge filthy entendre, overdriven melody, and a strong sense of songwriting. It’s heavy, growly, and post-punk enough to turn your head and hold your attention, but also catchy enough to keep your turned head subconsciously bopping.
Eschewing the full-time need for a wanky guitar in their mix, Oaf is simply He Who Strums and Shouts (aka Metal Hammer scribe Dom Lawson on bass) and He Who Hits Things (aka James Rayment on drums), and their big bad debut arrives just when the world needs a sharp, smirking kick most. Botheration bridges the gaps between NoMeansNo worship, Napalm Death howl, the pisstakery of the Anti-Nowhere League, and Big Black’s nothing-is-sacred mentality. Thankfully, Oaf also share the same pitch-black sense of humour as the aforementioned, so the album is a welcome, sarcastic elbow to the ribs.
Intro “The Oaferture” opens the disc, flailing through over-the-top, gurgled grindnoise into a goofy jazz crawl before climaxing in an extended, uh, ending, that’s all drum fills and power chords. But then Dom’s Rob-Wright-hand kicks in “A Euphemism For Tits” and the album just jets off from there. Sounding like a bastardized “Negative Creep”, the song is a raging bull-in-a-china-shop, frenetic and punchy. It’s followed by “The Black Whale”, which is a bit more mid-tempo, but catchy as hell and a chorus that is so hooky, I was left scratching my head trying to figure out the lyrics (even after Oaf kindly provided me with a lyric sheet). The hilarious “Giant Ballbag” kicks in next, and it’s the only instance of guitar on the album (a solo courtesy of The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins), but it’s brief and doesn’t detract from an otherwise balls-out (chortle) song. The hits keep coming, too: The raucous “No More Tickets for the Time Machine” is another exercise in hooks out the ying-yang; ”Wanking With A Fistful of Shit” is a rollercoaster ride full of menace; of course, any song called “I’m Retarded” is brilliant – I mean, there’s no arguing with the random whizzers, clown horns, and anvil clanks incorporated into its coda.
Lawson’s over-the-top Cockney bellow clocks in somewhere between the football chant of Jimmy Pursey, and the drunken-Ozzy-yowl of Jared Big Business. Screeching like a rabid Basil Fawlty about to blow his stack, he adds hilarity to already-funny lyrics like “Massive when flaccid, but I’m TINY WHEN ERECT!” or “I’ve got a Giant Ballbag, MIGHT KILL MYSELF!” The lyrics are cleverly obtuse, in the same vein as, say, the Melvins, or Fudge Tunnel. Meanwhile underneath it all, Rayment’s Swiss-watch drumming drive this ship as if he’s got a severe deadline to meet.
All told, Botheration is amphetamine-amped, nitrous-gassed, catchy as fuck, and it also happens to be a laff riot – truly the whole package.