Picks and Pans Review: Otis
updated 11/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 11/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST
Somewhere in this vast universe there must exist a person or thing so dear to Nixon that he couldn't possibly make fun of it. Or maybe not.
Nixon seems to love rock and roll, yet he dedicates himself to twisting the genre into a raunchy, sweaty, messy, redneck joke.
In past years he has written such tunes as an obscene love ode to MTV veejay Martha Quinn and a disrespectfully overstated tribute to that fat guy who lived at Graceland. On this, his sixth and best album, Nixon takes his satirical self to new levels of unrefined refinement, sounding at times as if he's vomiting or belching out songs instead of singing them. Operating without his longtime collaborator and backup man Skid Roper, Nixon wisely tempers his own excesses by lining up a hot and versatile band including John Doe, formerly of X, and the Del Lords' Eric Ambel. Their expert accompaniment allows him to tackle a broadened range of styles.
He skewers and pays tribute to Motown with "Rabies Baby," a love song about a virgin waitress with rabies, and he does his best James Brown send-up and George Bush put-down with "Put a Sex Mo-sheen in the White House." Nixon even includes a mock drinking song, "Shane's Dentist," a playful jab at the crooked-toothed leader of the Pogues, Shane MacGowan.
Nixon, a Virginia native now based in San Diego, isn't the sort to use cruelty for kindness's sake. In "Don Henley Must Die," he dubs the ex-Eagle "a bloated, hairy thing" who sings "idiot, poetry swill," and says of a possible Eagles reunion, "Don Henley must die/ Don't let him get back together/ With Glenn Frey." Yet this song, like Nixon's previous attempts to smash rock and roll idols, seems calculated not so much to wage war as to garner enough publicity so that people will listen to his music.
It's a cheap trick, but it's all more or less in the name of fun and compensated for by the album's none-too-commercial title, which Nixon chose because so many of his idols bear that name, including soul singer Otis Clay and Otis Blackwell, who wrote "All Shook Up." (Enigma)