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Hobo Train
vac027 (2001) CD - $10.00
Mixing raucous folk-Americana with arty-farty eclecticism, Rube Waddell are a fun, strange bunch from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Their 1996 debut one-sided twelve-inch Hobo Train has just been reissued seven bonus tracks. On this wonderful disc, you get something a little closer to their street-corner origins, a noisier junkyard stew that actually becomes scary at times. Throughout it all they honor their namesake with songs that sound like alligator-rasslin' ("Rube Yelp"), store-window mannequins ("Boogie Woogie Polka"), and fire-rescue heroics ("Six Feet Down"). "Metal Circus" is genuinely frightening: a nightmare tablas 'n' bass soundscape with a screeching banshee chasing us away. "Go to Satan" is an easily disobeyed command, and the Tom Waits imitation is pretty obvious. Finally, the stinky Latin inflections of "Mierda Heda" are quite a lot of fun, but you can't dance to it.

The bonus tracks are a mixed bag of five live tunes (yay!) and two Hobo Train outtakes. The outtakes -- "Going to the Mountain" and "Brass Menagerie" -- are both terrific. "Mountain" is a blur of squalling harmonicas and droll vocals, while "Menagerie" is a strange world of disgusting burps, screams, and animal sounds, ending in a fake-opera. Definitely stick around for the live tracks ("Recorded live on the SS Slubnitz, Rostock, DE"): they are a blast. "Vienna Waltz" is just that: a waltz with vocals that sound like Bela Lugosi. The mandolin-and-bugle cover of "Mack the Knife" sounds more like the Mexican Revolution than Weimar Agitprop (not to mention Bobby Darin). "Eunice Irene" and "Hobo Train" are engaging down-and-out tales of immigrant widows and shivering hoboes eating on the rails. And "Westward Rider" actually rocks! Song remains the same, dude.

"On the whole, Hobo Train Deluxe CD and Bound for the Gates of Hell are great snarling treks through the grungy underbelly of Americana. Sure, they appropriate all sorts of idealized dirty hooks and sounds, and sometimes the folksy demonology seems a tad contrived. But if you're hankering for fat possums and bone machines, yearning for that phony Alan-Lomax street funk, then definitely give these crazed street urchins a listen."

- Pop Matters



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Vaccination Records
Rube Waddell

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