If the apocalypse really is nigh, Head On Electric is ready. The album-opening title track from the Milwaukee power trio’s debut Sleep Slaughter Sheep is pummeling punk rock that spits like hardcore and gallops like coked-up country. It sounds like a pack of leather-clad demon steeds stampeding into the bowels of hell—or what such a thing would presumably sound like, anyway—and Head On Electric stays pointed toward a deeply dangerous and darkly sexy underworld for the remainder of the LP. The pace slows on the crab-walking “Poison Toad” and the creepy-crawly psych-rock of “Up To You (Lounge),” which conjure the spirits of the band’s fast-and-loose forbearers, the Monks and 13th Floor Elevators. There’s even a rare moment of jangly beauty on the standout track “Through The Cobwebs.” But whenever the rhythm section of drummer Cole Juntila and bassist Steve Deau starts to plod a bit too much, singer Erik Oley’s slashing guitar furiously clanks out another maniacal melody that kicks Slaughter back into overdrive.
“Here They Come Now” lays on some thick, bottom-heavy fuzz that’s positively menacing, and the thrashing anarchy of “Acid Ponds” barely keeps its cacophonous components in one piece. At 13 songs, Sleep Slaughter Sheep runs too long and, like a lot of garage-punk albums, gets a little same-y by the time it’s over (though the album’s penultimate track, the surf-rocker “Bean Or Sprout,” is a likeable throwaway). But Sleep Slaughter Sheep is a scrappy, untamed, and occasionally electrifying record designed for late-night listening. Play it at the end of parties—or the end of times.