Personnel: Rt. Rev. Ray Pride (vocals, harp); Billy Steve Korpi (guitar); Chris Black (violin); Walter Daniels (saxophone); Mike Vasquez (trumpet); Coby Cardosa (Fender Rhodes piano, percussion); Mike "Mr. Enthusiasm" Corwin (drums).
The allusion to snakes in the title should have been a dead giveaway, if the band name wasn't already. The Crack Pipes play a particularly sloppy, supercharged strain of garage punk with a whopping side order of skuzzy, flop-sweat hellcat blues. The band's sophomore record fairly swaggers with half-parodic, dumb brilliance. Add frequent nods in the direction of acid-fried psychedelia and -- hooey! -- Snakes in My Veins is a jolt to the immune system and a brain-cell mangler all at once. It isn't all balls-to-the-wall all the time. "Avenues and Boulevards," with its chintzy, roller-rink Fender Rhodes, quasi-jazzy tempos, and, yes, snaking Robbie Krieger-style guitar lines quite obviously (and, it would seem, intentionally) puts one in the mind of the Doors, a comparison that is definitively nailed down by Ray Pride's hammy, calculatedly melodramatic pseudo-poetics. Jim Morrison, anyone? Only with leather trousers that are two sizes too small and squeezing certain bulges a little too uncomfortably. It's L.A. Woman for the attention deficit disorder era, while "Jawbone Blues" is the group's very own "The End." In the other direction, the good-natured ribbing and spot-on homage "Super Motel 8" is Arlo Guthrie sings Blonde on Blonde, with some nifty honky tonk guitar and the Dylanisms cranked up to 11. Right on. Still, the Crack Pipes are at their best when they're stirring up a hornet's nest of rock & roll fury. Note the sweltering, queasy juke snarl of the tonsil-shredding title track. Or for Mitch Ryder on angel dust dancing on hot coals, see "(I Hear My) Special Rider." And "United Snakes" is a flat-out monster of a tune any way you stab it -- dirty riffs piled thick and played by dirty fingernails painted glam rock red, with a dirty mind wailing for some kind of Hell-spawn salvation. With a kitchen sink thrown into the mix, too. Make that two kitchen sinks. To close things, the band wrings every last bit of snot it can from Aretha Franklin's classic "Save Me," and positively rips through the Eric Burdon-penned Animals B-side "I'm Gonna Change the World" with scorched-earth abandon. Awesome music on several levels. ~ Stanton Swihart