90s score: 8/10
2020 score: 7/10
The ol’ “getting obsessed with serial killers” phase that so many adolescents experience hit me hard in high school. It was around the same time I was forming my musical taste and reading about fuckin’ dorks like John Wayne Gacy. It tipped me off to bands who had namechecked him in their careers, including the likes of The Mentally Ill, Macabre, and Dog Fashion Disco. One of the bands that stuck out to me the most at the time was Acid Bath, whose 1994 album When the Kite String Pops features cover art from the killer clown himself.
If you’ve not heard Acid Bath before, they were a metal band from southern Louisiana. The band had a reputation for mashing together elements of sludge, punk, death metal and goth music with nasty sounding results. It’s been a while, so let’s take another listen to When the Kite String Pops.
The album kicks off with “The Blue,” a song that packs some of the grime I remember, but whose skank beats throughout didn’t bring back any of the warm, fuzzy feelings I felt back in grade 10. “Tranquilized,” however, still rips as hard. The riff onslaught and tempo shifting throughout do a great job showing what the band do best. Couple that with Dax Riggs’ versatile but, admittedly weird vocals and “Tranquilized” still holds up as a key Acid Bath tune. Some other still-illuminated highlights include the warbly “Finger Paintings of the Insane,” the death metal influenced “Jezebel,” and the glacial paced “Dr. Seuss is Dead.”
I remember there being a few skippers on the album back in high school, but in 2020, some number of years beyond high school, there are more than a few. I already mentioned that “The Blue” doesn’t do much for me anymore but tunes like “Dope Fiend” and “The Bones of Baby Dolls” were a real bore to listen to. One of the biggest surprises in re-listening to this album was the song “Cheap Vodka.” Again, it’s been years since the band graced my ears, but I knew going into this that “Cheap Vodka” is a staple song for the band. To me, it lacks any of the riffage and vocal diversity that drew my interest in the first place. Sure, the last half of the tune features some slowed down instrumentals and some Dax Riggs wailing, but it lacks the organic shift in tone that the band captured on songs like the closing tune “Cassie Eats Cockroaches.” The handful of aforementioned songs sound to me like debut album jitters, because when Acid Bath were on, they were on.
All in all, When the Kite String Pops held up better than I thought it would. There are some tunes on here that I probably didn’t need to hear again, but there’s a solid forty-five or so minutes of sludge. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check out how Paegan Terrorism Tactics sounds through my 2020 hearing aids.
Written by Justin Bruce
*Edited by Dominic Abate