Southern Culture on the Skids could be forgiven for its dearth of new material since 2004’s Mojo Box. Indeed, the band has existed, more or less unchanged, since its lineup solidified in 1987. To be fair, the trio followed with two more — 2006’s rip-roaring Doublewide and Live and a patchy covers record, Countrypolitan Favorites, in 2007.
But at this point, SCOTS has so cemented its shtick, that new albums are mere curios with just a little more utility than a ceramic bear. So it really doesn’t matter when, or if, a new studio album comes out. Would it be nice? Sure. But SCOTS has always been best taken live, anyway.
So, why write about a band with nothing new to say? The other side of my brain counters: “Sometimes newness isn’t the point.”
I think of Rocky Horror fans for whom the ritual of repetition is a major part of the appeal. The most cultish of cult films seems to be my parallel.
But first, it bears mentioning that SCOTS has plenty of musical merits. One would be hard pressed to find a better synthesis of surf rock, country, rockabilly, R&B, and lounge than Southern Culture injects into its grease-slick odes to, well, food and sex, mostly. And even after 22 years, nobody beats them at their own game. The Rev. Horton Heat comes close, but that band’s revved-up rockabilly is only a piece of what SCOTS has to offer.
The most immediate aspect to the SCOTS experience is the image, the visual and thematic send-up/celebration of white-trash stereotypes the band has reveled in from its earliest days. Live shows are known for their fried-chicken-flinging excess, as much as for frontman Rick Miller’s white-hot, high-octane guitar leads. But this is a band that has penned songs about tall hairdos, banana pudding, and the active lives of cheap motels for two decades — they might be forgiven if the musicianship were an afterthought.
That, though, would likely have stifled their longevity. Because, you see, even after all this time, SCOTS is still novel — still not a novelty.