Got that firmly in mind? Well, guess what? They're all a bunch of pussies. Matricide, gay-bashing, cop killing? You're still in the sandbox. How about a song called "Ha Ha Holocaust"? Or "I Snuck a Retard Into a Sperm Bank"? Or "I Sent a Thank You Card to the Guy Who Raped You"? How about a group called Anal Cunt?
AC, a Boston death-metal trio masterminded by singer Seth Putnam in 1988, would be dangerous if it were talented. A sort of Three Stooges for skinheads (a sect the group claims to dislike, along with every other facet of the population), Putnam, guitarist Josh Martin and drummer Nate Lincoln (the last like Joe De Rita or Joe Besser to Moe and Larry, a replacement hired on a whim and given to quitting on short notice) are a lot more fun on paper than on disc. (Psychotic novelty act Wesley Willis' eponymous song about the group is better than AC's own output -- and that's saying something.) The fact that band members seem fully aware of this ("Everyone in Anal Cunt Is Dumb") hasn't deterred them. To quote John Vernon's immortal Animal House advice to Stephen Furst: "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life." Well, maybe it is.
"People who care about stuff like music don't like us," says Martin by telephone from his office job in Boston. (The group addresses its members' workplace surroundings with the tune "I Got an Office Job for the Sole Purpose of Sexually Harassing Women.") "We're nonpretentious," he says, chuckling at the understatement. "The songs get meaner on every album. We've written some real mean songs about people we don't hate anymore, and some songs the label [Earache] made us change the titles on." Asked whether the band has a definable threshold for offense, Martin says, "Well, it's not that there's anything we won't say. Every time we think we can't get any worse, there's a new rock to turn over, and bam! It's more that there are things the label won't let us say." One of those things was the original title of "Your Kid Committed Suicide Because You Suck," which involved the fatal accidental fall of a famous guitar player's son. If AC ever changes its name to something more palatable, Lawsuit Magnet isn't taken.
Martin speaks articulately and is not ignorant of the impression left by AC's unhinged worldview, as conveyed in song. His coworkers at the unnamed day job are unaware of their ponytailed colleague's other gig by name -- "They know I'm in a band," he says. "The kind of people who buy our albums are looking to offend other people."
Satire is designed to offend, so you don't hear a lot of it from major -- or even small -- labels, for whom parody (e.g., "Weird" Al) is already gamble enough. Of course, there's no law that satire need be sophisticated or even intelligent. And that's good for AC, which, Martin hints, functions satirically.
Predictably, though, some of the group's paying fanbase hears AC's songs as considerably less than satire. "Women: Nature's Punching Bags" might -- or might not -- be a slap at the macho rhetoric of other underground metal or grindcore bands; the distinction isn't likely to be made by those who like AC for its deafening, if inept, music. For every brilliantly Beavis-and-Butthead punchline of titles such as "Your Favorite Band is Supertramp," there is a more sinister one, such as "You're Pregnant, So I Kicked You in the Stomach."
"The people we know and hang out with aren't the kind who get offended by what we do," Martin says when asked whether the band's raunchy misogyny has hindered his romantic life. That group apparently includes Putnam's wife, whom the singer calls "a total fuckin' cunt" in an interview with underground death-metal satire rag The Grimoire ("the death-metal magazine for assholes," boasts its masthead).
The Grimoire Q&A session, which finds Putnam drunk and irritable as he and his interviewer play hot potato with racial epithets and personal insults, might be the least endearing bit of satire ever published. The increasingly perturbed Putnam responds to accusations of his Judaism with chorus after chorus of "I'm not a fuckin' Jew" and goes on to announce that he hates women and blacks, admitting that he's saying these things to be outrageous in an already-out-there 'zine.
The Grimoire's Web site includes a disclaimer that says the publication is "exclusively for readers who enjoy brutal sarcasm." Its interviews, says the disclaimer, are "for the sake of comedy, not malice." But it's hot po-ta-to, hot po-tah-to when it comes to whether its audience reads Putnam's claim to have stolen ash from a concentration camp as a dig at skinheads or an invitation.
"We piss everybody off," Martin says by e-mail when questioned about the Grimoire piece later. "The last show we played, the skinheads wanted to kill us because Seth called them a bunch of pussies." Martin says that Putnam chased someone out of a recent show and threatened to beat him because he was handing out copies of The Grimoire. "The words 'kike' and 'nigger' are all over that 'zine," Martin says. "[The publisher] just tries to piss people off."
It figures that the most virulent affronts to hardcore believers in protected speech would come from so far underground -- and that a couple of the most shruggingly carefree practitioners of the equal-opportunity-offender school would wind up taking shots at each other. After all, the real hatemongers don't even realize they're offensive, right? But if Putnam and Martin know they're out to piss everybody off, is their approach still ironic?
"The song titles got us hits on Napster," Martin explains. "That and the fact that our band name is sort of unforgettable. But any kind of music where you'd make money would be stuff I wouldn't want to do. I can't think of any bands, new ones anyway, that I like at all."
AC tours only annually now that its members have to be excused from real jobs to play. Martin says that their two-week jaunts no longer cost them anything, a confession that belies AC's claim that band members do as much physical damage as possible to the venues they play. "We don't sell enough records for people to give a shit about us. Maybe 10,000 copies at the most," he says.
Martin doesn't vote; he wants to avoid jury duty. It's another irony, another sign that his apolitical band would rather make fun of rhetoric than retail it. But if Martin isn't concerned about being misunderstood, it might do him and AC some good to wonder whether those 10,000 fans are just laughing -- or voting for something themselves.