Municipal Waste is gonna fuck you up!--Tony Foresta, "Born to Party," Circa 2002
Municipal Waste is gonna fuck you up!--Tony Foresta, "Born to Party," Circa 2007
Some things never change.
But others do. As with the progression from Waste 'Em All to Hazardous Mutation, The Art of Partying's differences can be heard immediately. Slick(er) production, an instrumental intro and slightly slower, yet still frantically spit lyrics are all part of the game plan this time around. It's not likely "Pre-Game," the opening instrumental track, will usurp their opener at shows anytime soon...unless it's already happened. I didn't go see them when they played my town two weeks ago, so maybe it's already been implemented into lead-off batter position, Ozzie Smith style, circa 1988 (even though "The Wizard" was pretty much a number 2 man most of his career, he is just more worthy of referencing. Vince Coleman, with the speed of a scurrying spider across an Astroturf desk, held the distinction of Cardinals' lead-off man at the time; he also lacks an interesting nickname). And although I was but a lad of 5 that year, this is the music I'd imagine should have been made at the time. If this came out in 1988-1992, it would have been at the tail end of the Republican Trilogy that brought us "Nightmare on Elm Street," most of the "Friday the 13th" movies and "Child's Play." The `80s also marked the time when U.S. beer consumption was at an all-time high and Cheech and Chong movies were still appreciated like an urban garden-fresh pound of undried ganja. This `80s mentality is reflected heavily in this retro-obsessed band's latest work.
Consistent music styles (ska, crossover thrash, grindcore) can guarantee only one thing: If a band stays in its genre-specific box, fans of the last record will enjoy the next. With that in mind, Municipal Waste's box has started to fray at the edges and tear its corners. These boys need to clean out the goddamned recycling bin; the bottles are starting to spill out onto the floor. Sure, the songs are a little longer; 10 of 17 on here reach roach-burnt fingers beyond the two-minute mark, something that probably would have embarrassed 2002-era Waste. But what's the problem when the guitars are still charging ahead like a Christine-esque possessed locomotive? When the only problem with a band's "new sound" (read: slight progression forward) is about 10 extra seconds per song, then it's obvious you're just looking for something to complain about. Dave Witte's still drumming, so how could you go wrong?
The main difference between The Art of Partying and past releases is the overpowering prevalence of party-related songs ("The Inebriator," the title track, "Born to Party") versus their other familiar topics: references to of out-of-print `80s gorefests and slasher films, thrashing and, well, original fan fiction that would serve well as one-page screenplay treatments for Troma Films, who honestly need some outside help if they want to continue their long-running streak of reel-independence. The numbers speak for themselves: 41 percent of all tracks on this record deal with partying, just more than double the amount of material that was party-focused on Hazardous Mutations, and more than tripling the roughly 12 percent album time devoted to said topic on their first full-length. In comparison, their debut was practically hardline.
"Beer Pressure" features a hilarious intro discussion between a group of friends and their responsibility-aspiring lame of a pal who would rather stay home to rest up for an orthodontic appointment in the morning than go out with his homies. "Mental Shock" follows the plight of the falsely accused "Deathripper" from Mutations; a framed, innocent man pays the Rippers' tab on Death Row, while the real "criminal" keeps killing in the streets. The reason criminal is in quotations is because we all secretly cheer for B-movie bad guys. It's why Municipal Waste can continue writing songs about such themes, and also why Hollywood can keep pumping out excessive gore-focused Saw sequels; we keep buying the stuff, so why not make more? Speaking of sequels, the strange things afoot at Municipal High (former employer of the "Substitute Creature") continue on "Lunch Hall Food Brawl," as the surviving students of the creature's rampage suffocate each other in a mass of food service throwaways that weren't worth eating in the first place. The Waste sure know how to execute a sequel, even if none of the actors from the originals have bothered to return.
"Sadistic Magician" follows the tradition of "Substitute Creature" and "Mountain Wizard" (maybe a reference to Ozzie Smith?) with its quickly spit, missing-syllabic prose about yet another antagonist torturing those unlucky enough to stumble upon his lair. Whatever. These guys need to devote an entire album to songs about B-movie heroes, even if our obsession with the torturers' actions far outweighs our concern for the horribly acted lead roles.
Further proof that Municipal Waste has progressed in baby steps lies in the album closer (if you don't count the two bonus tracks), the re-recording of "Born to Party," first seen on their 2002 split with Pittsburgh's now-defunct Crucial Unit. The 2007 version may just be the first thrash song to feature full-blown "whoa"s, and no one can complain about that.
A little more metal? Yes. One obvious and successful attempt at finding some melody in a sea of beer-soaked riffs and straight-ahead percussion? Why the fuck not? And throw in some more party songs for the hell of it, dude.
Like Leftover Crack and killing cops, on The Art of Partying Municipal Waste has found its niche in songs about gateway drugs and cheap beer consumption at parties behind the toxic waste refinery on the wrong side of the tracks. Some may say that it's a gimmick, some may say it's an insult to fans' intelligence. But as long as The Waste can continue pumping out riffs to provide aural background to Tony Foresta's B-movie storytelling, even those of us who are anti-beer, like me, will line up to get Wasted. Oooh, pun! Oooh, cliché!