Liner Notes

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Hot Snakes // Suicide Invoice

Released in 2002
Original Swami Pressing
Favorite Track:
Then: "LAX" 
Now: "Paid In Cigarettes"

There was considerable debate in my hometown about 2002's record of the year. Most of Reno was split between The Blood Brother's March On Electric Children and the indispensable Hot Snakes' Suicide Invoice. I saw Hot Snakes on this tour and it remains my favorite of the half dozen times I've seen them. As nothing good ever came to Reno, we ventured to SF for our beloved Hot Snakes. They closed the show with a cover of Drive Like Jehu's "Bullet Train To Vegas" which had our little-boy hearts swooning. In the last ten years, I've listened to March On twice. And while I will still go to bat for "New York Slave" and "American Vultures," I'm ready to call it (albeit 18 years late): Suicide by a mile.

I worship at the altar of the riff. And in this capacity, there is no more suitable idol than Jon Reis. Growing up playing in basements, garages, and DIY venues have taught me one thing: no one can hear the vocals. So, by virtue of some limp-dicked PAs, we all learned how to play the ass off our instruments. Hot riffs and heart was all we had. And this created an entire generation of Reno rock kids who were abnormally good at their instruments and uncommonly bad at singing. It comes as no surprise to me we found a hero in Jon Reis, a man whose riffs shred on an unplugged Les Paul -- a guitar player whose right hand was his right-hand man. I own nearly every record he's ever minted. And they say the Jet has lost a step or two after Drive Like Jehu, but we saw some fireworks on Suicide Invoice.

Also, I don't care about singing. You want a singer, go listen to Michael BublĂ©. Rick Froberg can't sing worth shit, but he slays. He's perfect. Unimpeachable. My buddy Jace used to describe vocalists in heavy bands as just another instrument in the band. Johannes plays drums with Victor on the scream. There are good screams and bad screams, and make no mistake they can be graded. Rick is a critical darling of the throat varietal. This is rock 'n' roll.

My love for the Hot Snakes is old enough to vote. This record is a perfect 33min at 33 1/3. When I was a sick as a kid, my Dad would put on a Betamax copy of Star Wars and by the end of the 20th Century Fox fanfare, I legitimately started to feel better. I have a similar reaction listening to this record. That ugly little tug on the strings that kicks this record off gets me every time. I didn't think Rick was talking about me when I heard "I Hate The Kids," but now I hate the kids. And it's glorious.

My friends would always say, "You know what this song's about?" and proceed to tell me about their sense memory of listening to it. It got to be a little joke in our circle. As I write this, it occurs to me I should have called this project, "You Know What This Song's About?"

And this song is about living in a huge house on Manor St. in Reno, NV, with some of my best friends. It cost $400 a month to heat during the winter so we kept a space heater in our rooms, hoarding our precious heat like dragons. I remember being able to see my breath in the hallway between my room and the bathroom. I remember long trips in Jeff's Ford Escort Station Wagon across the Sierra Nevada mountains for rock 'n' roll. Andy Dufrisne had his Mozart when he was in the hole, and during quarantine I have the Hot Snakes.

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