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Ass Cobra (Epitaph/Burning Heart)

After two early '90s releases of decent buzz-saw punk, Sweden's Turbonegro must have hunkered way down in some old farmhouse during one of those famously long and dark Scandinavian winters, with sheep, speed, and each other their only companions. The band reemerged in 1996 with a contender for the definitive disc of the whole '90s scuzzball-rock sound. On Ass Cobra, Turbonegro spits out more quick riffs than the Hellacopters, pens tunes as catchy as the Supersuckers', makes music more varied than Zeke's, and is way stinkier than Nashville Pussy. Flaunting the broken English of their region -- and flouting its lax drug laws -- the members of Turbonegro eventually outpaced their more well-known contemporaries to become reigning rock lords of Europe.

Apocalypse Dudes, the band's 1998 album, only upped Turbonegro's Euro fame with the addition of whiz-bang guitarist Euroboy and slicked-up sound via Slade- and Queen-style arena anthems; it was the absolute Euro-rock album of the decade. Soon, Turbonegro was headlining huge festivals throughout the continent. Small-label reissues of the band's records peppered the States. The touring was endless, as were the drugs. The "crazy" singer really was nuts, so he put himself away for a while, and the band broke up. Then this Swedish-rock trend blew up. Singer cleaned up. Turbonegro re-formed last year for more big Euro festivals. And Epitaph finally secured the band's most proper U.S. reissues yet (adding some MPEG videos).

Now all this may not matter much to American concert audiences and radio listeners, who'll be seeing these reissues and thinking, "Not another Swedish rock band!" Well, there's that, and the fact that Turbonegro's predominant lyrical theme is the joy of having sex with little boys. It all adds up to the kind of homoeroticism-as-hilarity that attracts . . . young boys who like songs with "fuck" in them, as well as older rock guys (Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, and Supersuckers -- all fans of Turbonegro) who like ironic songs with "fuck" in them. It's a smart, dumb thing. But if you like big, shout-along, locomotive rock and roll, skipping out on Turbonegro would be as stupid as this band pretends to be.

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More by Eric Davidson

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