The Humpers - Positively Sick on 4th Street (Cover Artwork)

The Humpers

Positively Sick on 4th Street (1993)

Sympathy for the Record Industry

Everyone knows that a lot of great punk and rock music of the '90s was under the almost omnipresent shadow of grunge and mainstream punk, the latter including the likes of Green Day and the Offspring. In fact, the former and Bad Religion were signed to Reprise Records the same year that the Humpers released a really great album on Sympathy for the Record Industry. That album is Positively Sick on 4th Street.

Now, I first heard the Humpers on the second volume of Punk-O-Rama almost a decade after its release. I fell in love with their song "Mutate with Me," and consequently their entire 1997 Plastique Valentine album on Epitaph. When I gave a listen to Positively Sick on 4th Street, I knew that I was listening to a much earlier album of theirs. Their following album, Live Forever or Die Trying, was good insofar as it was much recycling from this album, and in comparison, this album is much more enjoyable than Plastique Valentine.

The drum work is sufficient, fast, and clean. Jeff Fieldhouse's lead guitar work was explosive on the entire album, particularly on the tracks "Hey Shadow" and "Drunk Tank." The sound of high-octane rockabilly fused with garage punk that the Humpers master on this album is much like a fine wine--except it doesn't give you as much of a headache if you consume too much of it.

The lyrics, as the Humpers probably demonstrated on My Machine (which is an extremely rare album, so I'm told), are creative and original. Scott Drake's lead vocal work is a young urban rasp, often matched with a unifying backup.

The Humpers demonstrate their fun and fast-paced antics early in the album with songs like "Up Yer Heart" and "War Is Hell." The best of these, "Zombie" is also the best track on the album. The lyrics are clever ("open up your mind so I can spit in it"), the guitar solo near the end is fantastic, and the energy level is through the roof with a quick tempo and some very impressive drum work.

And I couldn't listen to "Cops and Robbers" without wanting to have a listen to "Police & Thieves" by the Clash. That makes sense, right?