Review: Those Poor Bastards- “Is This Hell?”
If you have been following country music’s underground for any substantial period of time, you have undoubtedly came into contact with Those Poor Bastards and their unique brand of goth-country. Combining the darker edges of old-time folk and roots music with punk influences, the Wisconsin duo have carved out a niche among fans who love and appreciate both tradition and innovation. With their new four-track EP Is This Hell? , the duo continues their domination of this sub-genre and while it isn’t the ideal place to begin your relationship with Those Poor Bastards (see Satan is Watching or Hellfire Hymns), this is nonetheless a great release that fans will really enjoy.
Kicking off with the Joy Division-inspired title track, the band sets the tone for the abstract and macabre vision to follow and they live up to that vision with “Move On, Maggot,” a barn dance rockabilly number that presents the duo at their finest musically. “Hauntings” is up next and it is a truly eerie hillbilly garage rocker about “barricades of blood” and “human genocide.” Last but not least is “Forever Poor,” the best track here and something of a rallying cry for those who are sick of being trampled on. “We poor folks gotta rise up and end this,” Lonesome Wyatt sings. Damn right, I say.
In many ways, Those Poor Bastards are the perfect soundtrack for either the revolution they speak about in “Forever Poor,” the second coming of the Great Depression that was going on long before the rich people on Wall Street began to feel it, or the Hell they describe in the title track. This is music of the people and it is about the suffering that the poor and middle classes can relate to. Some folks won’t like the dark and morbid aspects of it, but pessimists like me will relate to every word. And the fact that it’s on vinyl makes it that much cooler.