Todd are not for the faint of heart. They are, indeed, the second coming of The MC5, repackaged for today’s metal audience, but no less exciting in their straight-from-the-garage assault as Wayne Kramer and company were when they first kicked out the jams forty years ago. And on their third album, Big Ripper, Todd turn the knobs all the way up and crash and pound their way through some of the most intense and ear-splitting DIY rock ‘n’ roll in recent memory.
Big Ripper is, on first listen, a completely offensive sonic assault, throughout which Todd aim for the gut as much as the ears, as they thrash and flail about, seemingly determined to shake the fillings from your teeth. The recording quality here is to be commended; there are absolutely no studio tricks present, and really, there’s no evidence that any sort of professional production was done at all. This sounds like a negative thing, doesn’t it?
Quite the opposite. In an age of over-produced metal acts rallying for the attention of “alternative rock” radio and arena tours, Todd seem content to sweat it out in the garage or the local underground metal club. All the energy, violence, mayhem, madness, aggression and angst that makes rock ‘n’ roll what it is come through in pounding waves on Big Ripper, sped up and slowed down over the warm and skittering hiss of analogue tape.
There is absolutely no distinguishing one sound from another: fat distorted bass bleeds into filthy guitars and the drums peak and splash queasily, creating an impermeable wall of barbed-wire fuzz through which the screamed vocals are just barely discernable. Forget trying to decipher the lyrics – you genuinely can’t make out any of the words. But the emotion comes through: Todd hates you, and they want to cause you pain (please, though, take that as a good thing in this case).
Album opener, Track Side Fire, opens in an explosion of lightning fast drum pounding and lower-register vocal rumbling, and progresses into an eventual guitar solo – if you can call it that – that sounds not unlike the business end of a hacksaw being dragged across a length of corrugated tin. Todd continue through track after track of deafening offence, including the standouts Country And Western Super Posters, and Arista Disco.
The pace here is hard and fast – dizzyingly so – with precious few moments of reprieve. Todd don’t seem to know anything about subtlety, and Big Ripper is all the better for it. The genuine frenetic ballistics of Todd’s dirgy, filthy, grimy attack is something to applaud. If cleanliness is next to godliness, then Todd are something to be really afraid of.
The album’s one nearly restful moment comes in the form of the slow-motion drone of French And In France. Here, Todd take their time, constructing a spaghetti Western march, fitting of a high noon duel in a dusty street, that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Darker My Love record.
Big Ripper will ruin your hi-fi. It’ll ruin your hearing. But it’s such a fascinating and anomalous entry in the mundane world of new-century metal with its low-fidelity approach and its pounding, bleeding violence that you just can’t turn away. Todd are without a doubt bona fide rock ‘n’ roll pugilists.