There's rarely been a more aptly titled album than Satirical Spirituals, Bouncer Fighter's 10-track ransack of every pleasantly sour note from the Americana songbook. Across 10 songs and a hidden track (remember those?), Bouncer Fighter play fast, loose, and loud with their over-amplified American folk and bluegrass. An acidic hobo's stew curried from those strangely united corners of antique American consciousness (silent-film scores, Faulknerian death masses, Confederate battle hymns), Satirical Spirituals is a brash and often ominous portrait of a bygone America that may only exist in the imaginations of Tom Waits and David Lynch.
At its most disciplined, Satirical Spirituals plays out like a ragged rock band who found a viola player, got good and drunk, and cut an album in all its dizzy stumblings. On poppier songs like "Smoking Drugs with Jesus" and "Garbagemen of the Galaxy," the tempos stay up and swinging, but just barely, and the melodies suggest that the band members are in the woozy embraces that usually precede a dirt nap.
But these are the gateway drugs to Satirical Spirituals' harder, more substantial offerings. "Uppity Butterflies" plays like the score to a Buster Keaton chase, full of furious portent and rabid fiddling, and it leads without warning to the album's dip into the sneering darkness. "Corpses on a Wall" is a Burtonesque dirge—were there any light left in this down-tempo, intensely melodic track, you could probably see Bouncer Fighter smirking to one another. It's the perfect prologue to "Baby Jesus," the album's muted climax. Withstanding Bouncer Fighter's haymakers for an entire album can be fatiguing work, and the album's final track finds band and listener alike rather punch drunk. But "Baby Jesus" is a masterpiece in miniature. After the sound and the fury of the previous brawling tracks, "Baby Jesus" is full of quietude and heartbreak and, at last, daylight.
BOUNCER FIGHTER play a CD-release show with Children of Euler on FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19, at the HEXAGON BAR; 612.722.3454