Punk rock has changed a lot through the years. Though the genre has always had subversiveness at its core, recent punk has shifted from abject vulgarity to riotous protest anthems to wry, self-aware social observations mixed with obscure political, historical, and literary references—pretty high-brow stuff. Thankfully, at least, The Meatmen, one of the early purveyors of gleefully offensive hardcore, haven’t changed a bit.
Led by Touch And Go Records co-founder Tesco Vee, The Meatmen built a career upon enthusiastically outrageous and wildly crude lyrics, crammed into fiery metal-tinged scraps with titles such as “Crippled Children Suck.” Adding an extra layer of production polish or two, Savage Sagas—the group’s first album of original material since 1995’s Pope On A Rope (yes, that does refer to hanging the pontiff)—is similarly defined by such shamelessly juvenile and wantonly tasteless subject matter, including morbidly obese strippers (“It’s Amateur Night At Uncle Bux Bikini Club”) and luring an old dog to NRA-approved euthanasia (“Pork Chop And A .22”). (Indeed, perhaps the closest the band gets to political commentary is “Pissed Hot For Weed,” a call for marijuana legalization.) Musically, the band generally operates from the same rough-and-tumble playbook it always has, with a handful of stylistic novelties thrown in; “The Ballad Of Stinky Penis” and “12” Soft,” for example, respectively dabble in Western and Oi! in spinning tales of men with unfortunately defective members.
Elsewhere, Vee blasts through throwback speed-metal on “I’m Gonna Fuck You Up” and thuds and crashes through a sludgy, Melvins-like ode to public display of bodily fluids on “Big Bloody Booger On The Bathroom Wall”—demonstrating that, in the past two decades, he’s neither matured nor modernized. But as his extended shout-out to former hardcore compatriots on “They Just Don’t Make ’Em Anymore” makes clear, Vee wouldn't have it any other way. And while The Meatmen’s boorish methods aren't likely to make a mainstream comeback any time soon, Savage Sagas is a reminder that punk music needn't always take itself so seriously, either.