Smackin’ Isaiah - The Way To A Girl’s Heart Is Through Her Boyfriend’s Stomach (Cover Artwork)

Smackin’ Isaiah

The Way To A Girl’s Heart Is Through Her Boyfriend’s Stomach (1999)

All About Records

Depending on the band, a first album can be either a landmark mission statement of what is to come or a forgotten footnote at the bottom of their back catalog. In the case of Massachusetts punk juggernaut A Wilhelm Scream, their debut full-length The Way To A Girl’s Heart Is Through Her Boyfriend’s Stomach (under the name of Smackin’ Isaiah) likely falls into the latter of those categories but maybe carries a bit more bang than other forgotten firsts.

Simply put, The Way To… introduces listeners to a band that plays extremely fast riffs. These 10 songs are hammered out so fast and frantically it sounds as if everything is about to crash, but never does. The songs are simpler and more straight-forward than then band’s current “everything and the kitchen sink” style, but the speed and precision showcased on this record are exceptional nonetheless. The lyrics focus on the day-to-day frustrations of life with a good number of inside jokes thrown in ranging from stealing cases of beer to playing Tekken. The recording production is a little thin, not uncommon for a first album, but definitely not as big and beefy as what’s heard on some of their more recent releases. What’s also missing here is relevance; the band never plays any of these 10 songs live so it’s hard to really get into them. At the time of writing this, I have seen A Wilhelm Scream live 19 times and never once heard any of these tunes, not even back in the Smackin’ Isaiah days.

Despite this being an early work from my favorite band, I have no problem bluntly stating that this record looks terrible. Brightly colored, hand drawn cartoon scenes of a distraught young fellow holding flowers on the front and then a blood-laden axe on the back are what make up the outside packaging, followed by an autographed Ron Jeremy photo and more hand-drawn cartoons on the inside jackets. I’m not sure what the boys were thinking with these choices but I think even the most basic, stereotypical “punk” font on a plain black background would have gotten the job done better than this mess. Longtime punk zine Maximum Rock n’ Roll said it best in their review of the album years ago: “Sounds better than it looks.”

Overall, consider The Way To… to be a (horrible looking) lost gem for the most diehard of fans. If you’re a casual fan of the band’s more recent material then there is no need to revisit this album. While this record is technically impressive and features strong songwriting, it has since been trumped by the recordings that have followed it and its songs have lost relevance.