Cherubs – Heroin Man – Review

Written by on May 18, 2024

Cherubs – Heroin Man – Review by Joshua Reedy.


My copy: 2023 limited reissue on hot pink vinyl by Brutal Panda Records.

Heroin Man is probably the greatest (or at least most underrated) example of the 90s alternative zeitgeist – in that their drunken, cantankerous persona reflects an obsession with the extreme; from destructive waves of guitar to grainy artwork depicting the supposed death of a close friend. Heroin Man is dedicated in part to the aforementioned Mike Lara, with lyrics and song titles painting images of violent, alcohol-fueled benders that could have led to the untimely demise of the “bathtub man.”

“Stag Party” loops dial tone sounds under crashing waves of distortion, with unintelligible shrieking from Kevin Whitley only piercing the vein halfway through the song – and to great effect. Whitley sputters and panics with equal parts disgust and confusion, reflecting a universal urge to shed any and all inhibitions. “Animator” carries on with a heavy vigor into the forceful bound of “Blackhouse,” exposing a reverence for both hardcore and metal. Cherubs do not find their stride in structure or writing necessarily, rather guitars and bass rattle and rake with an intensity that elevates the strange charisma of the vocals.

“Baby Huey” patches in an old keyboard percussion loop under genuinely hooky melodies, providing one of their more accessible experiences before the harsh, metallic burn of “Dave Of The Moon.” Tapping in to the pseudo-racism of Gun Club or The Fall, “Coonass” and “Mr. Goy” are at least coated in enough rancorous energy to drive the satirical nature of the album’s narrative. “Cockpit – Kiss The Shine” is another half-time powerhouse of sludge-rock before lo-fi tendencies wash over the radio-static-corrupted message “Venus Flytrap.”

Building patiently with a feedback atmosphere is “The Big Groovy,” though it is easy to mistake patience for fluff on a record that relies so heavily on humongous riffs. “Wornout Balls” marches on, providing trudging guitar that could convert any naysayer. “Playdough” experiments with samples before the grinding, industrial battering of nine-minute closer “Example Maiden Japan – Devil’s Food.”

Heroin Man is definitely at its peak in the first half – working with an intoxicatingly simple rationale: Who cares if it sounds like shit? That’s the point, asshole. Without the haphazard production, a song like “Dave Of The Moon” would contain a fraction of its desired bite. Harsh as such an analysis may sound, it is not for lack of skill or conceptual talent, as the record is also nothing without its distinctive hardcore/noise-rock rhythmic fusions. In spite of the second-half slow-down, Heroin Man is surely the best of the Cherubs, somehow perfectly capturing the feeling of being in your scary uncle’s unfinished basement as the smell of moonshine and death wafts through the air.





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