Rock n’ roll and blasphemy have long sauntered hand-in-hand, but some bands like to see how far they can push the boundaries. Cincinnati’s Black Tractor, who have been chugging along at their own pace for twenty years, are no strangers to contention – their latest in four releases, entitled The Wonders of the Invisible World, is chock full of the absurd and inappropriate, backed by a soundtrack that is, in their words, “heavy enough for the fellas but danceable enough for the ladies”. Released originally back in 2019, it’s time now for this unique and remarkable record to come out on vinyl.
Peeling back the onion-like layers of the music takes some doing, but each brings its own reward. The surface level reveals a stoner rock/metal sound akin to Alabama Thunderpussy and Orange Goblin, where fun-loving riffs collide with screaming solos and melodies. Buzz and Tungsten, the new faces in the band, bring the heavy in the rhythm section, allowing El-Sid and Rock High to rock out. There’s no set formula – the spectrum of genres stretches from punk rock acoustic folk, 70s AM ballads to head-spinning noise rock, and yet all packaged in a cohesive way.
Leading the wild goose chase is the roupy, crazed voice of frontman Johnny Potatoes. His lyrics, confronting humanity’s complex relationship with God, take on a distinctly Garth Ennis Preacher vibe in the swirl of sex, alcohol, and broken homes. There’s a twisted sense of humor that permeates tracks like “What God Made Pockets For” and “Just Like Fay Wray”, and it goes deeper as the record unfolds. By the time we hit “Hosanna” (a torture country ballad) and “The Third One” (a stomper about burning witches), the full vision of Black Tractor has unfolded into a disturbing insight into society.
It’s not just on record that the band court controversy. The band’s initial album release show was a sacrilegious spectacle “mimicking Bible Belt tent revivals and charlatan clergymen who would empty the pockets of their naive flock”. The show since then has grown exponentially to include, among other things, drunken monks, lascivious nuns, and a raised pulpit with lasers. Sounds like fun.
Black Tractor may refer to their records as ‘potboilers’ in self-deprecation, but there’s more than meets the eye here. If genre-bending is your bag and you don’t bat an eye at controversial lyrics, then The Wonders of the Invisible World are yours for the tasting.
"The Wonders Of The Invisible World” is beautifully written.
-Roxy, Rockstars Glued, album review
"Despite the joking nature of Black Tractor, the musicianship is seriously good — as much as they want to play up their “drunk lunkhead” image, the writing is sharp and smart and the playing is tight and impeccable. " -Mike Breen, City Beat Magazine
"Wow! Without a doubt the worst thing I've ever witnessed. Lead vocalist is a "complete" asshole. Soul crushing trash!" -Jim Smith, Dayton, via email
Art of note should always be divisive, and Black Tractor's brand of provocative heaviness has been stumbling onto Cincinnati stages since mid 2002. For nearly 20 years the band's unflinching DIY work ethic has bore 4 albums, a comic book, an animated music video, and countless print designs. All designed, engineered and produced by the band itself.
To the casual listener Black Tractor is a particularly astute combo. Heavy enough for the fellas but danceable enough for the ladies. But if one is to peel back the layers of the music, the rewards prove plentiful. Elements of the band’s music can be traced back to punk, gospel, reggae, country, progressive rock, folk, even 70's AM radio soft rock ballads. With each new release, the band has made notable improvements in the writing and arranging of the music, resulting in tunes which are both accessible for the layman, but challenging to those who care to critically listen.
2019 saw the release of "The Wonders Of The Invisible World." Recorded by Chris Schmidt (aka Rock High, Black Tractor rhythm guitarist) at Shepherd's Pie Studio in Cincinnati, the album further pushed the boundaries of what the band was capable of. At times the music approaches grindcore, at others gentle acoustic melodies. The end result being a brutally heavy record with multiple flavors and reprieve. The album release was accompanied by a revamped stage show mimicking bible belt tent revivals and charlatan clergymen who would empty the pockets of their naive flock. The stage shows grew in spectacle as a smoke billowing pulpit fitted with lasers was added to the production. Additional personnel was also added to aid in the visual appeal of the band. A drunken monk stumbles the stage with incense while a sexy nun dances provocatively. All the while the stage is flanked by beefy security guards who participate in faux fisticuffs with drunkards who would do our pious heroes harm.
All these elements mingle well, and the result is a visually and aurally stimulating experience. The icing on the cake is the band published comic book lending a bit of lore to the chaos onstage.
As the band approaches it's 20 year anniversary, there is nary a sign of wavering. The grey hairs and wedding rings don't dilute the fact the band is firing on all cylinders, making music for the love of the art and nothing else. The current line up is strong and capable. The band is inspired and hungry to write. There is no doubt Black Tractor will continue to release music and cause hearing loss in clubs for years to come. Regardless of what Jim Smith from Dayton thinks.
Buzz E. McBeerbringer Esq. – Drunken Master of the Lectric Thunderbroom and Scooby Doo historian
El-Sid – Lectric Geetar and ZZ Top Aficionado
Tungsten Steele – Trap Kit, and Winner of the 1988 Culican Mexico Pot Roast Cook Off
Johnny Potatoes – Vocals, Our Pious Orator
Rock High – Lectric Geeter and Lectronic Cigarettes.
CD Track Listing:
1. I Can’t Seem To Wake My Wife
2. Just Like Fay Wray
3. The Devil’s Waterfall
4. The Thief and the Trumpet
5. What God Made Pockets For
6. Things We Learned In New Jersey
7. The Peckerwood Sway
8. Your Left Shoulder
10. The Third One
11. And To Mary, A Sweet Goodnight
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