The Cliftons - Sex, Drugs & Alcohol (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Cliftons

Sex, Drugs & Alcohol (2002)

Super Speedway

The Cliftons are a band who take their name from the Andy Kaufman character Tony Clifton. To understand how suited the name is, one must imagine the first time I saw this band live. It was some time in 2003 and they were opening for the Dead Kennedys. The place was crammed with high school students wearing Black Flag and Misfits T-shirts (don't believe me, just look at the Cliftons' homepage). The Cliftons were the last opener and took the stage with attitude in tow and lead singer Billy Bob Clifton wearing a clearly exposed thong and the words "Fuck me" written on his chest. During their set, the band tore through songs and the audience with comments like "How the fuck are you just standing there? Are you going to go to school tomorrow and be like, ‘Dude I saw the Dead Kennedys last night and stood the whole time with my arms crossed. It was awesome?'" Their set climaxed with the bassist at the time (I believe), Jonny Nauseous, exposing himself, then piggy-backing the guitar player and falling ass over head through the drum kit. The backstage antics were apparently much worse and led to members of DK demanding a separate trailer at the next venue to avoid the Cliftons altogether. How could this much insanity not spark interest in their Super Speedway release Sex, Drugs & Alcohol?

A real easy way to describe this release is skatepunk in the vein of the Dwarves, but it's more than that. The album is set to break-neck speed even for skatepunk, with nine songs pulling in just shy of the ten-minute mark. The songs feature lyrics like "The time is coming / the time is near / the time is coming / to get more beer," ("Bottles and Cans") that aren't going to win them any fans in the art community. But it may just be the Cliftons straight-forward manner that separates them from the pack. In a world of music that is ever increasing in seriousness, the Cliftons have apparently found a way to stop time in the boisterous and volatile skatepunk era of the early-to-mid eighties.

While the album cannot possibly be as disturbing and offensive as the band's live show, it tries damn hard with songs like "Registered Sex Offender" and "I Ain't Cruzin' With no Fucks." Much like the aforementioned Tony Clifton, the band seeks to find humor in offensive and unsettling ways. Perhaps this is a movement to lift the weighty sobriety that has plagued music as of late. Or maybe the Cliftons just enjoy cheap humor and pissing people off. Regardless of their motives, the band always seems to divide crowds into those that find them innovative and uproarious and those who find them immature and offensive. When all is said and done, the Cliftons are not the band you listen to with your long-haired friends while you discuss world politics. This is the music you'd imagine listening to while jackhammering a transvestite hooker in the alley behind some bar where the Dwarves are playing.