Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Music: Are you ready for that? Driving your car down a desert highway listening to the seventies and eighties rise like zombies from the rippling sand? I hope so.

Mimsy Review: Dirt Track Date

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, October 28, 2002

“All I want is just one more oatmeal pie. Little Debbie, Little Debbie, I’m a comin’ on over, baby! Cause you make me want to walk like a camel.”

Dirt Track Date” introduced me to Southern Culture on the Skids. I can relate to the title. Hell, I’ve been on them. Of course, it was mostly a high school thing where I’m from, and it involved going out “two-trackin’”. Southern Culture appears to be singing about the races. The cover of the album says it all: tire tracks in the dirt and a discarded condom.

RecommendationPurchase Now!
ArtistSouthern Culture on the Skids
Year1995
Length49 minutes
Album Rating7
Convertible Down Rating8
1. Voodoo Cadillac 4:37
2. Soul City 2:35
3. Greenback Fly 3:46
4. Skullbucket 2:41
5. Camel Walk 2:37
6. White Trash 2:01
7. Firefly 3:24
8. Make Mayan a Hawaiian 2:23
9. Fried Chicken and Gasoline 4:17
10. Nitty Gritty 2:29
11. 8 Piece Box 4:02
12. Galley Slave 3:00
13. Whole Lotta Things 2:28
14. Dirt Track Date 8:45

For a long time this album defined Southern Culture on the Skids to me. It is probably their most accessible album, more so even than “Liquored Up and Lacquered Down”. Every track on here is either singable or danceable or both. “Camel Walk” is the standout: “Baby, would you eat that there snack cracker in your special outfit for me, please? Baby, you make me want to walk... like a camel. The way you eat that oatmeal pie just makes me want to die!”

“Fried Chicken and Gasoline” is their trademark disgustingly (in the good sense) touching (in the “on the skids” sense) love song. A truck driver sings about his love life while driving, eating fried chicken, and smelling of gasoline, as the miles and late nights build up, missing a woman who don’t miss him. “Fried chicken and gasoline, that’s the story of my life.” It’s also one of two songs about food on this album, the other being “Eight Piece Box”: “I started on a thigh, then I got me a breast, my mouth got so tired, I had to take a rest.” Something tells me there’s more to this song than just fried chicken, but it could just be my dirty mind speaking. (This is one of their signature songs, and they used to, and perhaps still do, throw fried chicken into the audience while singing it.)

“Come on baby take a ride with me up the Mississippi down to New Orleans,” the opening song (Voodoo Cadillac) asks us, with “Tony Jo White on my radio.” It’s a tour down the seamy side of rural life, so let’s ride--in V8 style. We’ll take our Cadillac into “Soul City” where “it don’t matter if your pants are shiny, if your dick is big or your dick is tiny; it don’t matter if your wig’s on straight, if you show up early and you party too late.”

“Greenback Fly” is an example of how Southern Culture songs often tread firmly into “novelty song” territory. But it’s also an example of how such songs can--and with Southern Culture, often do--transcend such classifications. It’s a song about a guy who is able to concern himself mainly with the flies that hover around his home. We know he’s got a girlfriend; we know he’s got food in the kitchen. But the flies are taking it, and he’s fighting back. The flies are fat and plump; he undoubtedly is not.

“Firefly” is about the late-night parties that you might get into at “Soul City”, when you pray for some light--any light--so you can see who the hell you’re going home with. You didn’t care when you left the bar, but you sobered up a bit between the bar and your front porch.

“Skullbucket,” “Make Mayan a Hawaiian,” and “Galley Slave” are jazzy, country wordless tunes that show off the music that underlies the biting, funny lyrics. My favorite of those is “Mayan” and the lap steel guitar sounds therein. It is a melodic tune, and provides a foretaste of one of my favorite Southern Culture tunes, “House of Bamboo” (on their later album “Plastic Seat Sweat”). Speaking of which, where “Make Mayan a Hawaiian” has the same feel as Bamboo, “Nitty Gritty” has the party flavor. Probably the most danceable of the tunes, it also has the least listenable lyrics. I still don’t know what it’s about, other than about people who say “let’s get down to the real nitty gritty” because sooner or later someone always does.

While “Camel Walk” and “Firefly” and others stand out more, the more I listen to the album, the more “Whole Lotta Things” becomes my favorite song on it. A song about a guy who hasn’t done a whole lot with his life, but that don’t mean he don’t want to. It’s a song about all the characters on the album; it is heartfelt, plaintive, and even hopeful. He won’t do these things--but he might. Some of them are easier than others, depending on where he lives: run around naked in the pouring rain, make love in a hurricane. Others might be harder: kiss lips tender and true.

When I first heard “Dirt Track Date” I thought it was a fun album, and it definitely was. A friend of mine made a copy of it for me on cassette, and as soon as I had the ten bucks together I picked it up on CD. By then I liked it enough that I began searching out other Southern Culture albums. They start out fun, and they remain fun. They’re great melodies in a variety of styles. But they’re really good lyrics on top of the melodies. They’re funny, cute, touching, biting; they’re songs about people. It’s not just southern, although that’s the mythology they work from, it’s more the rural south, and it fits with any predominantly rural people who are constantly made fun of by the urbanites nearby.

Oddly enough, my southern friend who introduced me to it has repudiated it. (“I never really liked them.”) I think she’s just become an upwardly mobile southerner and doesn’t want to look back on the roots she never really had. SCOTS idealizes what are otherwise insulting stereotypes. Part of their brilliance is in turning around the insults into pride. When you hear SCOTS sing about oatmeal pies, you want one. Fried chicken & gasoline? You can’t have been more proud of driving a truck since C.W. McCall.

If you’d like to start listening to Southern Culture on the Skids, “Dirt Track Date” is probably the best album to start with, but be careful: they’re an addicting taste.

When it comes down to it, there are few groups I like to listen to more while driving down a California road with my top down than Southern Culture on the Skids, and this is one of their best.

Dirt Track Date

Southern Culture on the Skids

Recommendation: Purchase Now!

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