The Belushis delight in rude, crude frat rock
The band clearly loves a good time, but its album Thunderballs was born of trauma and tribulation
The worst busker in Vancouver works a small patch of concrete a few short paces from American Apparel on Granville Street. He specializes in Beatles songs and other '60s classics, but he replaces all the lyrics with swear words. He can't play, he can't sing, and he's ugly, but there's no question the guy can curse like a motherfucker. So he's got that going for him. Sometimes he's joined by a friend on acoustic bass who, incredibly, is even less talented.
And it's oddly appropriate that the duo's unspeakably filthy version of "Mrs. Robinson" should be rising up from the street below when, on a pissy Friday night, two of Vancouver's Belushis–guitarist Mr. Magic Chords and bassist The Golden Goose–meet with the Georgia Straight for a profanity-laced and beer-injected interview. It's been a tough year for the frat-rock foursome, but with its second album Thunderballs finally finished, the band is ready to hold forth on its traumatic gestation.
Or maybe not. "We discussed our game plan for this interview, and we'll talk about it but we obviously don't want the whole thing to be about bad blood between us and him," Mr. Magic Chords, aka Kirk Macdonald, states firmly, without once referring to an impending date in small-claims court with the band's former vocalist, Shawn McLeod.
After recording all the music for Thunderballs in three dizzying days last March at the Warehouse–or "Bryan Adams's house" as The Golden Goose, aka Ryan Gander, puts it–McLeod announced that he'd fallen in love and was moving to Texas. Permanently. The band shit-canned him, Macdonald says, and he retaliated by making off with the hard drive containing the bed tracks for the new record–and now it's in Texas, too. "He'd already made the decision to leave," he says, "and it makes no sense for us to do a record with a singer who isn't going to be in the band. I think at the heart of it, he's just flabbergasted that we'd have the audacity to continue without him. And he's somewhat deluded on the matter." Macdonald then gamely tries to change the subject by bitching, at length, about the Belushis' other guitarist, who goes by the name XXX Shock Rock. "We should try and piss him off as much as possible because he's too fuckin' busy to come to the interview," Macdonald steams, while Gander wonders aloud about how one Belushi can sweat so much. "XXX seems to sweat, a lot," he notes, shaking his head.
Remarkably, Thunderballs doesn't suffer from any of these tribulations, whether it's overactive sweat glands or hightailing ex-singers. Having salvaged the album from digital "stem" tracks, the remaining Belushis shared lead-vocal duties, and they all seem to sound just as damaged, throaty, and party-sick as the errant frontman. "That's probably because of the booze," Macdonald suggests.
The overarching feel for rock at its most perilously sloppy remains, often coming across as early KISS rutting the Heartbreakers. Where Thunderballs tops the band's fine 2005 debut, Rich in Broken Glass, is in its moments of relative sophistication; the choppy new-wave guitar of "The City Makes Me Mean", a buoyant acoustic interlude in "We're Not the Cool Kids", the stadium breakdown in "Black Mamba".
By and large, however, the Belushis remain as rude and unwelcome as a beer belch at a debutante's ball. Take the track called "One Way is Tighter than the Other". What the hell is that supposed to mean?
"If we have to explain it to you, then what's the point?" says Gander, impatiently. "We were in Golden, and the guy was apologizing about how much he could afford to pay us for the gig. And we thought it was fuckin' extraordinary that he was paying us 300 dollars to play. It's not bad. But he's like, 'Come up here, there's a room here, we got a bunch of shit we're trying to get rid of, and you can take some of this stuff with you.' So they had boxes full of sex toys and he gave each of the Belushis a cock ring and a Beaver Achiever, which is like, well, XXX describes it as a rubber tourniquet that you put on your dick, and it's attached to a remote control, and it gives sensation to both her holes at the same time."
That's all very disgusting, of course, but does it really answer the question? Not according to Macdonald, who claims that "One Way”¦" is about the songwriting process; specifically, how the band chose to handle the song's bridge. Handing the lyrical duties to drummer Evil Drizzle is where it all started to go wrong, he insists. "Somebody had their mind in the gutter," he spits.