Straight from the Gutter, self-released by the Banditos, is old-school punk in its most unrehearsed, technically imperfect and haphazard form. The Banditos are not a good band–at all.
Before playing the album, you may notice that Straight from the Gutter’s cover shows a picture of a man, whose head is a poorly photoshopped dollhead wearing a metal helmet. The man is holding a guitar, but, what’s more? The guitar is on fire. Aside from being absolutely ridiculous, this image is the mark of a band who just doesn’t care.
Toward the beginning of the album, “The Basement” kicks things off with loud and obnoxious drums, fuzz guitar and outright screaming. Lyrics like, “We don’t talk about the basement / That’s the way that it goes” are really just nonsensical utterances being yelled at you while a rock band rages on in the background.
“Graveyard Dance” follows in similar suit. “Dracula is doing the twist, but Frankenstein is getting pissed” is an example of mindless writing and a questionable-at-best subject matter. A glorified minor-blues, the Banditos should be ashamed of themselves for borrowing from such a respected genre to make a punk song. A perfectly good chord progression is wrecked with, as always, fuzzed-out guitar, pounding drums and screaming vocals. “Anybody seen the invisible man / Last time I saw him he was doing the slam” finishes the second verse just before you need to turn your stereo off.
But the Banditos are more than just bad music, they represent what happens when four guys come together to try and exceed the sum of their parts. Alone, each member could surely create an unorganized pile of sound, but Straight from the Gutter is ridiculous, mindless and, because of this, endlessly entertaining—even if there is no intrinsic musical value. While we can assume that tracks like “Heart Attack Spree” and “Snake Plissken” won’t deliver major musical breakthroughs, they are undeniably fun to listen to, and make you laugh, however they are quite over-the-top.At least The Banditos will force a chuckle out of you.
At most, this album will make you question why you listen to music in the first place. Does it really matter whether or not a group is “good” if they can’t make you feel something? While the ideal situation would be good technical ability that also inspires genuine feeling, the Banditos get it half right, and it’s the better half. Each member is able to play their instrument well enough to get their point across; it just so happens that they don’t have anything particularly complicated or proficient to say. The response this music garners—laughter, mindlessness and surprise—is what matters. The Banditos cultivate meaning out of music that has no meaning and pay rightful due to the funnier side of life—something we could use more of. The Banditos, true to punk tradition, just don’t care.