Fat Mike - Rubber Bordello soundtrack (with Dustin Lanker) (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Fat Mike

Rubber Bordello soundtrack (with Dustin Lanker) (2012)

Snakeoil Media

By now everyone knows the backstory of Fat Mike's latest venture, and how it's the soundtrack to a pornographic period piece set in the early 1900s by the name of Rubber Bordello, so let's not dwell on that, and get to what really matters; the music. Working with Dustin Lanker of Mad Caddies and Cherry Poppin' Daddies fame, as well as members of Tom Waits' backing band, Mike has crafted an album that's about as far away musically from the brand of skate punk he is most commonly associated with, yet retains some of the melodic trademarks he's exhibited as a songwriter in his near 30-year musical career.

After commencing with "Shedonistic Society," featuring the smoky yet smooth vocals of one Hudsy Hawn, and lyrics that come off like a more depraved version of "We Put the ‘Spring' in Springfield," the Rubber Bordello soundtrack is a nearly entirely instrumental affair. While ragtime is not a genre I have not spent much time listening to, and can't imagine devoting that much more time to it in the future, this record is much more than simply the novelty I expected it to be. There is some serious musicianship on display here.

While musically the Rubber Bordello soundtrack is 100 percent ragtime, Mike manages to slip in some classic punk rock references by way of song titles like "Fucking Machine Gun Etiquette" and "Oh Bondage, Up Whores." There is also a great deal more variety contained within the individual tracks than I had anticipated. "Fucking Machine Gun Etiquette" nearly doubles its original tempo by the end of its four-minute runtime, and the sad, haunting keys and horns of closer "Sleep Tight" are much more beautiful than they will probably get credit for when paired with the images they were written to accompany.

A record such as this may seem to come entirely out of left field for Fat Mike, but NOFX had flirted with ragtime music as far back as "Buggley Eyes" from 1992's White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean. When listening to tracks from the Rubber Bordello soundtrack like "The Jerk Rag" and "Knotty Girls," it is not hard to tell that they are products of that same songwriter.

From The Decline, the 18-minute punk rock opera that came half a decade before Green Day turned the world upside down by doing the exact same thing, to the Punk Voter campaign, to his Cokie the Clown shenanigans at SXSW a couple years ago, Fat Mike has never been afraid to step outside his comfort zone and try new things. This record is another interesting move from a polarizing punk rock figure that perhaps doesn't always get the respect he deserves as a musician. While it may not be required listening, the Rubber Bordello soundtrack is a successful turn at trying something new, which is something not many musicians three decades into their career would be willing or able to do.