Rock Me Like a Schwarzentruber (The Return of Amish Speed Metal)06/17/2008
By Larry Wiebe
Fans of bhangra-tinged Amish speed metal will be wetting themselves at the long-anticipated, longer-feared reunion of Phil Harris & the Teflon Starfish.
The new album is called "Bite the Hamster," and it's everything we thought might happen. After Phil's now-legendary onstage breakdown at Fjordfest '95 in Oslo, critics predicted the band would never perform together again, even in cages.
But those who've followed the Starfish in their many permutations over the ensuing years will welcome Harris' butter-churning flat-brimmed black-hatted return.
It's been a long road back for the one-time Flesh Monkey front man.
After years of rehab and intensive neoJungian tetherball therapy following his incarceration, Phil began to resurrect his career early last year with a few well-received cameo appearances as the mysterious barn-raising cow tipper on the FOX reality show *Impotent Gigolos.*
With the public's interest piqued, he followed those up with an only moderately impaired appearance at a Yuki & the Electric Panda Factory concert in Liverpool and, more notably, a magnificent (though severely impaired) cover of "Let the Sister Attack" on the recent tribute album to Japanese Indie band Bump of Chicken.
Harris' vocals are still as rugged as a Lancaster County pine bench and are often compared to a young Buster Poindexter crossed with an old David Johansen with a bad cold and a limp. If anything, his voice has only gotten crunkier and spongier with the passing of time, not unlike a salt-glazed butter urn left out in the sun. No more the incoherent ramblings of a euthanized squirrel that characterize some of the early Starfish recordings.
Combined with the near-psychotic drumming of Welsh legend Nic Sauvage, the muscular syncopation of bassist Gern "the Gern" Matthews, the gelatinous virtuosity of lead guitarist Thorax, all held together by the manic energy of Raj Cohen on the electric sitar, the 'Fish have created a Biblical manhood and layered wall of noise that "Zebra Fetish" could only hint at.
Diehard fans might be disappointed by the infusion of Sufi lyrics into what had heretofore been a strictly Kabbalah outfit, but the 13-minute mock-rock operatic "Thus Spake Spinoza" will have even the most hardcore Fishheads bleeding from the eyeballs and reaching for the ginseng. Mazal Tov!
In other music news, the Stuttering Weasels have fired their aromatherapist and will begin their world tour of Belgium in October. Oy vey!