Snakefinger – Live at the Savoy 1981

Release Date: 11/01/10

Photo: United Mutations

Phillip Charles Lithman, aka Snakefinger, is best known for his vocal and guitar work on several of influential Avant-Garde band The Residents’ best albums – Duck Stab, The Commercial Album. I’d dare say this release is a bit more accessible, don’t let this fool you though. This band isn’t “normal” by any means, and this live EP will certainly prove as much.

Probably the number one thing that separates this release from the aforementioned Residents albums is the inclusion of vocal hooks, even while the music remains quite left-of-center. There is also some punk influence to be found here. “History” has some of the most memorable guitar work I can recall. It’s strange, dissonant, and even a bit technical, but highly memorable and manages to find its way into your head. It kind of plays like an Avant-Garde response to Richard Hell & The Voidoid’s “Liars Beware” from Blank Generation.

You know what? This whole release kind of reminds me of a more challenging version of Blank Generation. Snakefinger’s vocal style lends to this a lot, but the advanced guitar work and building this strange music over a punk base adds to this feeling as well. So too does the guitar solo on “Picnic in the Jungle”.

“The Man in the Dark Sedan” is closer to Snakefinger’s other output, and less Richard Hell-ish. Aside from this release, much of Snakefinger’s work is off-kilter blues, so this release is quite out there even by Snakefinger’s already outlandish standards. This is the group’s most popular track and it’s quite a memorable one. A really neat guitar riff drives the entire song.

The final track “Jesus Was A Leprechaun” may be the most punk-sounding song on here, but the slide guitar and dissonant passages make it clear the band is just using punk as another form of expression and could care less about actually being punk (which I guess makes them punk AF?). Overall, this whole release, while featuring some melodic vocal hooks, contains a lot of complicated and dissonant musical passages, and as such, simply won’t be for everyone, but it’s a hell of a release if you like both experimental and punk music.

Highlights: “Who is the Culprit and Who is the Victim?”, “History”, “The Man in the Dark Sedan”
Rating: 4/5
Purchase: Amazon

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