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The Locust, ‘Plague Soundscapes’ (Anti-)

There are a handful of legendary groups–the Ramones, the Velvet Underground-who never sold mega-millions of records, but who famously inspired an unusually huge number of kids to start their own bands. The elemental ferocity of songs like “Teenage Lobotomy” and “Sister Ray” seemed to scream out,”See? It’s easy to be awesomely original! Do it yourself!” Of course, it’s never that simple. And as a result, thousands of such “inspired” bands went on tosuck in awesomely original ways.

This is why we need the Locust, and songs like their “Twenty-three Lubed Up Schizophrenics with Delusions of Grandeur,” which seem to scream out, “Shut the fuck up and quit before anybody gets hurt, and maybe we’ll stop laughing at you.” The Locust’s music–best captured on their third album, Plague Soundscapes (Anti)–is a swarm of slapstick negation, a precise blast of strafing guitar, coiled drumrolls, relentless bass runs, and a Moog keyboard that sounds like it’s strangling every micro-techno DJ on earth (check the death gurgle of “Can We Please Get Another Nail in the Coffin of Culture Theft”).

Four twentysomething guys from San Diego who favor nut-hugging, insectoid costumes that cover their faces and expose their pipe-cleaner legs, the Locust are usually compared to other “noise-punk” bands (Melt-Banana, the Blood Brothers, Lightning Bolt, Black Dice, Arab on Radar). But while those outfits reach for some sort of transcendence via repetition, twisted groove, or strategic abstraction, the Locust basically want to fuck with you. Though their songs are rigorously composed, they’d rather see you throw up on yourself than jam out.

A blur of 23 songs in 21:03, Plague is electro-guitar pop in the Devo tradition–if Devo had spent the past 20 yearsdevolving. The vocals of bassist Justin Pearson and guitarist Bobby Bray are a carefully traded-off spew of nonsequiturs (see David Yow yowling on the first Scratch Acid record).The album is a revelation, but the band’s at their best live–musically obliterating audience members who attack them as “idiots,” “assholes,” and (invariably) “faggots.” Like other radical instigators, from Rahsaan Roland Kirk to Captain Beefheart to Flipper to the Locust’s most kindred spirits, the Butthole Surfers, the Locust reap abuse and turn it into masterfully absurdist art that takes itself just seriously enough. An advertising slogan for an early Buttholes album said it best, teasing simply: “Just when you thought it was safe to wipe….” That still holds. The Locust are out there.