Legacy of Fertility
Legacy of Fertility is a long-overdue roundup of the entire recorded output of razor-sharp West Virginia rabble-rousers Th’ Inbred. A staple of all those obscure-o/forgotten punk blogs out there, these guys turned the sword on hardcore in the mid-eighties and eviscerated the endless crowds of mohawked sheep with a perfect mixture of blistering speed, unexpected prog, and hilariously pointed lyrics. It’s hard to believe a band this crisp and intelligent and scathing and funny isn’t more widely known. I suppose in the tidal wave of punk that washed over Reagan ’80s America, anything from a place as decidedly unhip as West Virginia was purposely overlooked.
Th’ Inbred’s sardonic platform was crystal clear less than twenty seconds into their 1985 debut EP Reproduction. “Don’t wanna hear no political songs, just wanna comb our hair all night long!” shouts singer Bobb Cotter on the lemming-basher “Scene Death.” “We don’t say fuck Reagan ’cause we’re not the ones out there beggin’!” Cotter’s delivery is dripping with sticky sarcasm, making this attack on the “Nazi jocks” ruining the punk scene that much more potent than other famous songs of the same ilk.
After two minutes of skull-smacking thrash, Reproduction veers into a bit of unexpected lo-fi jazz rock on “eMpTVy.” A slippery bass line lays the foundation for a serviceable rant against the world’s most famous music video cable network (then still in its infancy). While Th’ Inbred were critical of their own insular world, they had even harsher words for the larger capitalist American society. To wit, a couplet from “Fantasy Express”: “Freedom of choice between consumable goods is no freedom at all/just different flavors of scraps thrown to the dogs!” Or, as Bobb bluntly puts it towards the song’s end, “He who dies with the most toys winds up in the fuckin’ ground!” Spoken like a true anarchist.
1986’s A Family Affair LP found Th’ Inbred blurring the sonic lines between prickly sandpaper punk and noodly prog rock even further. Yet, one leaning does not weaken or distract from the other—every obtuse mathematical diversion is complimented by a wild, graceful swing back to Minor Threat territory, and vice versa. Unlike earlier stabs by bigger bands of the genre, this is fusion that works. Best of all, the venom is still there, pouring out of the speakers in nimble efforts like “Middle Class Refuges,” “The Positive Song” (a gut-busting rewrite of “Scene Death”), “Jesus Youth,” it’s companion piece “Satan Youth,” and the kinetic “But Not For Me.”
By 1988, tensions within Th’ Inbred were at an all-time high, which explains the darker tone of Kissin’ Cousins (the cover of which prominently featured cousin-kisser Jerry Lee Lewis and his child bride). The fun sounds like it’s slowly swirling down the drain on this later work; Bobb’s voice even sounds different, much angrier, gruffer, and worn out. Great entries remain, though, like the Primusy ball-buster “In The Woods” and the totally fucking insane anti/pro(?)-drug rap parody “Walk This Way (To The Crack)” (credited to “Run LSD”). The latter is proof that even at their weakest, Th’ Inbred could still be counted on to make something worth talking about.
If Legacy of Fertility is marred by anything, it’s the spotty fidelity in a few places (issues I imagine could have originated with the master recordings) and the slew of grammatical errors in the liner notes. Otherwise, it probably stands as the most valuable hardcore collection/reissue of the year. Kudos to Alternative Tentacles for unearthing Th’ Inbred’s catalog and making it readily available again. Life in America right now certainly feels like the fecal waste heap the band rants about in “The Shitpile”; thankfully, Legacy of Fertility is here to take the edge off.
FINAL SCORE: Four Idiot Skateboarders w/ Mohawks (out of four).