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: For Lovers Only

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, October 2, 2002

I’m the man that wrestles the bear, each year at the old county fair. And though I may lose I’m not easily bruised, I’m the man that wrestles the bear.

I picked up this album after becoming a fan of Southern Culture via their “Dirt Track Date” and “Plastic Seat Sweat” albums. This is an earlier album than those, and a whole lot weirder.

RecommendationPossible Purchase
ArtistSouthern Culture on the Skids
Length56 minutes
Album Rating6
1. For Lovers Only 4:18
2. Biscuit Eater 4:53
3. Barnyard Ballbuster 3:41
4. Nashville Toupee 4:44
5. Fatman’s Twist 2:45
6. Skunk 4:24
7. Sheik’s Walk 3:39
8. Wish I Was In Love 4:25
9. Daddy Was a Preacher But Mama Was a Go-Go Girl 2:42
10. King of the Mountain 4:42
11. The Man That Wrestles the Bear 3:13
12. Link’s Lung 4:25
13. Clyde’s Lament 6:50
14. For Lovers Only (Reprise) 0:52

While the titles and lyrics of this album are very similar to their later albums, the sound of this album is very different. It’s still jazzy country, but it’s more, I don’t even know how to describe it, just weird. “For Lovers Only”, the title song, I have no idea what it’s about. I suspect some in-joke from whatever part of the south they’re from. It’s some odd music with nothing but the phrase “For Lovers Only” repeated every once in a while. It would be nice music if not for the lyrics.

“Barnyard Ballbuster” is more lyrical, in that it has more than one line, but is just as strange. “She chewed her way to my barbed wire fence, and I ain’t seen my baby since. Come baaaack.” Still, it, with its barnyard bestiality topic, is much closer lyrically to Southern Culture’s later albums. It’s the melody that’s a little off-putting. And “Clyde’s Lament” is another one. But I do think that “Clyde’s Lament”, with its story of a a man working in a factory, will become better with more listens.

The highlights of the album for me are “Biscuit Eater”, “Wish I Was In Love”, “Daddy Was a Preacher, But Mama Was a GoGo Girl”, and “The Man that Wrestles the Bear”.

“Biscuit Eater” is a bit of an uptempo song about a man in love with a teen-age runaway. “She left home ’cause her daddy done beat her, she’s my little biscuit eater. She’s a hungry, hungry girl.” The thing is almost touching despite its implications, something Southern Culture is very good at. “I don’t know where that smell comes from, all I know I’m gonna get me some.”

“I Wish I was in Love”, about a man drinking away an old love who has gone on to other loves, is much more traditional, and could almost pass on the radio. “This bottle of wine just won’t do anymore.” The thing makes me want to start drinking, which is of course what good country music is supposed to do.

“Daddy Was a Preacher, But Mama Was a GoGo Girl” is just a butt-shaking tune. But then, I enjoy songs about Go-Go Girls, from Gordon Lightfoots “Go Go Round” to the Go-Go’s themselves. “Daddy knew the bible, but mama knew the ways of the world.”

Other songs include a tale of hunting a skunk that’s taken up residence underneath a house. (Skunks really do this--I’ve had skunks and possums battling it out for territory beneath a house that I was renting once. That’s a fight you absolutely stear clear of.) And another portrait of a “big man” from the mountains: a blue ridge mafia type getting into porn and moonshine.

Southern Culture on the Skids takes southern stereotypes seriously, in many cases turning ugly stereotypes into downright touching vignettes. They combine jazzy country in an alternative vein (you often see their albums in the racks of your friends who buy Combustible Edison, for example) with raunchy stories of Southern decadence. I heard someone else describe them as “Sir Douglas Quintet backed by a mariachi band lost in Memphis.” I once described them as the “dark reflection of the B-52s” but that doesn’t really do them justice. They’re more a dark reflection of pop culture in general.

But it’s odd, because as dark as some of their lyrics are, there’s always hope. These characters are Algren-like in their cultural outlook, Faulkner-like in their lack of control over their destiny, but they are characters you can feel for, and they have a nobility about them, even when they’re wrestling the bear. They have hope for the future.

If you’re not already a fan of Southern Culture, I recommend picking up some of their more accessible albums: Plastic Seat Sweat, Dirt Track Date, or Liquored Up And Lacquered Down. You’ll enjoy “For Lovers Only” a lot more, I think, once you’ve indoctrinated yourself into the SCOTS way of thinking. I didn’t like this album much at all when I first got it, but have come to really enjoy the highlights, and even perk up my barnyard ears when I hear Clyde’s Lament come on, in the hopes of understanding it. But I suspect that, if I didn’t already know how incredibly good Southern Culture on the Skids can be, I would not have given myself the time to warm up to it.

For Lovers Only

Southern Culture on the Skids

Recommendation: Possible Purchase

If you enjoyed For Lovers Only…

If you enjoy Southern Culture on the Skids, you might also be interested in Dirt Track Date.