Cheater Slicks
Bats in the Dead Trees
Lost Treasures of the Underworld

Despite the tag as one of the nation’s most tried and true, and cult-worshipped, garage bands, the Cheater Slicks have always tended to orbit the realm of head music. So it’s truly an anomaly that something similar to Bats in the Dead Trees hasn’t surfaced sooner. Here the Slicks get wicked in a four-part improvisational jam with “no overdubs,” no discernable shame, and certainly no knowledge of how the cards will fall or the shapes are going to form. Recently they played a nearly 45-minute version of “Sister Ray” at a Velvets tribute, a composition they likely could’ve played all night were it their basement and the after-hours booze kept flowing. The trio knows their way around a tentacled monster and more often than not, in the live setting, their songs are prone to become roadkill after their proper run through a free-rock freak-out. Hell, most of the live shows I’ve witnessed either clear a room faster than Great White or become squalling trash-punk tent revivals. Remember the Beerland?

Suffice to say, the Slicks are here to prove it’s not all that difficult to create a noise record and/or shatter the illusion that most of what’s considered “noise” in the waning days of the phenomena is art instead of pollution. Eye of the beholder?

This ear hears a ton of both on Bats in the Dead Trees, both high art for fuck’s sake and low-brow shredding that blinds the perimeters with thick caustic clouds of degenerate smoke. Part I is the warm-up, an attempt to crush the listener into droned submission in the first five minutes, as one riff is pounded repeatedly and feedback given a proper drubbing. At times, the distortion levels become so submerged and suffocating, you’ll wonder if this is what vinyl screams when you can’t find the vein. Around the nine-minute mark, out come the claws as the Shannon bros trade-off High Rise/Sun City Girls barbs that get charred and mangled under the weight of what surrounds them. How’s that for noise?

Part II is likely the most traditional Slicks moment on the record, even though you can contend they didn’t imagine it would turn out like it did. Fading in with a progression that’s either “You’re Gonna’ Miss Me” or “Gloria,” it soon mutates towards a mordant love-fest for garage fetishists, dished out in fragments, yet maintaining the greaser twang. All the while organ whizz is strewn about and the Roky time-loop continues ad infinitum.

Parts III and IV, which encompass side two of this beast, is where things get unexplainably gnarly, caked in static, string-torture and monolithic groans, it becomes difficult to translate Dana Hatch’s medieval drumming. The resulting saturation of cathartic blasts on III truly makes for one big percussive black mass. IV though, is dissection, about as abstract as you can allow the Slicks to be without replacing their brew with wheat grass. Kind of like the doomsday clock ticking on low batteries, the locusts buzzing through an empty city street and city hall in ruins. Yeah, on Bats in the Dead Trees the Slicks are the musical foil to the apocalypse.
Kevin J. Elliott