If the full-length debut from unhinged Glaswegian post-punk trio the Amazing Snakeheads sounds unnervingly capable of inciting volatile behavior, it’s probably because it is. Before the record even got a chance to see release in the U.S., the band all but completely disintegrated, leaving growling frontman Dale Barclay as its only remaining member (bassist William Coombe and drummer Jordan Hutchinson have since been replaced). No matter what happened (“William quit the band and Jordon [sic] knows why him and I are no longer friends. Fuck anyone who thinks otherwise,” Barclay wrote in a Facebook post), it’s a shame, because the guys that made Amphetamine Ballads were so full of piss and vinegar, they could raise the mane hair of any wayward beast to come within feet of them.
Lascivious, slithery and raw, Amphetamine Ballads comes off like the Birthday Party being fronted by Begbie from Trainspotting, with sax squeals and lecherous come-ons to spare. It’s a high-drama affair, with Barclay balancing sex, death and violence in simple but fascinating, disquieting ways (“You’re the best so far, I think I’ll call you Sally/ Forget the rest, now I’m your daddy,” he growls on a track titled “Where Is My Knife?”). Whether Barclay is playing a part is something to be determined, but he’s a great character, his nearly unintelligible Scottish burr shredding as he screams aloud his various fantasies and fetishes. Everything here seems to lurch drunkenly, even when the band manages to work itself into a proper groove (“Here It Comes Again,” a crooked translation of Joy Division’s “Digital”). But best are the true creepy crawlers, like the Gun Club-esque “Nighttime,” or the fairy tale/serial killer journal entry “Swamp Song.” Let’s just hope Barclay can keep it together long enough to make a few more like them.