In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: songs with the word “hit” somewhere in the title.
“Weird” is one of those adjectives that has been stripped of its meaning through overuse. When people describe music as “weird,” they generally mean that they don’t like it, or that it’s a genre unfamiliar to them. But some albums qualify as objectively weird based on a literal interpretation of the word. Shudder To Think’s Pony Express Record is one of them.
Pony Express Record is best known for its “hit” single “X-French Tee Shirt,” but its other “hit” single is “Hit Liquor.” As the opening track, “Hit Liquor” sets the tone for Pony Express Record’s serpentine journey. The album is sonically and lyrically as weird as music gets, and it still sounds current despite being released over two decades ago. Take for example the hook, for lack of a better term, which is a linguistic spaghetti junction: “Party of mouths, a finger-fan courtship / The case of her bones are softer than loose meat / A day on the belts or surely I’ll get thin / Then really rock.” The song doesn’t include the word “hit” outside of the title—Craig Wedren changes the phrase to “hip liquor” in the lyrics. The title becomes something of an in-joke, a self-deprecating jab at the album’s commercial inviability.
The most amazing thing about Pony Express Record is that it was released by a major label. Epic called Shudder To Think up to the bigs during the mid-’90s alt-rock feeding frenzy, back when practically every outre, guitar-centric four-piece got a sack of money to see if they could make the next Nevermind. The album sounds like the sort of thing major label executives have tense meetings about, but Wedren has spoken about the band’s Epic experience in glowing terms. They made the record they wanted and the label was fully supportive of whatever creative direction they wanted to take. More than a great song, “Hit Liquor” is a relic from a brief window of music history when major labels encouraged musicians to do the weird thing.