From the mouth and hands of Lonesome Wyatt, the foulest leper to emerge from the backwoods of Wisconsin, and the hands and feet of his hooded partner, The Minister, about whom nothing definitive is known, Those Poor Bastards unleash upon us loathsome sinners their eighth full-length, Sing It Ugly, and we must once more be judged in the intense, unwavering gaze of a doomsday preacher. For a quick bit of background, these cats have been described as a cross between Nick Cave, Danzig, Marilyn Manson, and Johnny Cash. They’ve collaborated with and been covered by Hank III. Walking upright in a musical territory merely stumbled through by King Dude and Nocturnal Poisoning (no slight to either act), their sonic approach is as raw, primitive, and venomous as the most frostbitten second wave black metal release you can think of, yet comes from the forests and dust of the American Midwest. All this with the atmosphere of reading Ethan Frome or Wise Blood alone by an open fire.
In their 2014 LP, Vicious Losers, the approach was a bitter one, a vicious harangue spat through phlegm and bile. On Sing It Ugly, things take a turn for the unexpected. Heavy use of vocal effects evoke the phonograph and Appalachia’s darlings, The Carter Family. Though the lyrics, as they often do with Wyatt, concern bastard spirituality, doomed isolation, and decay, some of the tunes are downright jaunty, sometimes even to the point of danceability. On previous albums, the higher energy songs would be of a very feral, seeing-red energy, but the added Jerry Lee Lewis-style piany and, on the first track, even a kind of dark polka, puts a whole ‘nother beast on our hands. On “Mysterious Things,” lines like “Let’s wrap a man in the chains of a beast and hold him underwater till he drown” are sung over sunny-afternoon, low-key bluegrass guitar with demented glee. It’s pretty fucking satisfying.