Gothic country messiahs Those Poor Bastards are one of the few artists whose releases I well and truly collect – I have almost everything they’ve released in all available formats. All I’m missing is one 7″. So I am not even going to pretend objectivity here: I fucking love Those Poor Bastards.
On this, their first EP, the US duo come across as still somewhat embryonic. The basic fundaments of their music, a cross between old time country folk and fuzz-laden out-of-tune garage sensibilities with lyrical themes of twisted old time religion, wretchedness, depression and everything dark are in place, but the duo of Lonesome Wyatt and The Minister would greatly improve their songwriting and arrangements in rather quick succession.
Consisting of an intro and five songs, this rather brief release features a song Hank Williams III made something of an underground hit when he covered it, Those Pills I Took, which for the longest time was TPB’s greatest claim to fame – despite being far from their best song. It’s not even the best song on this EP. As a composition and piece of lyric it’s very fine, yes indeed, but the soft fuzz of the guitar and rather rigid performance don’t do it justice. Hank 3’s ragged honky tonk rendition is far superior. The best song on this EP is without a doubt Black Dog Yodel, which is a classic Those Poor Bastards song in all regards: a sparse, acoustic arrangement with out-of-tune background vocals over which a story of personal wretchedness and southern discomfort is sung. The rest of the songs are rather forgettable rows – even the acerbic attack on mainstream country called Radio Country. The bonus track, The Bright Side, would get a far superior new treatment on the Satan Is Watching -album some years later.
Whilst the seeds of a darkly humorous, fundamentally wretched greatness are contained within this EP, without the benefit of hindsight they’re not easy to spot. The great concept of Those Poor Bastards still required a little bit of gestation to truly spring into bloom – which it did on their debut album shortly afterwards.