If Courtney Love is coherent enough these days to be creeped out by anything, then this CD is sure to give her a bad case of the willies. Now, saying that the mother of little Francis Bean would be creeped out by this band might seem hardly newsworthy since, as pretty much everybody knows, the Mentors creep out almost all sane females. Tipper Gore, circa her PMRC days, might be the most famous example of a female who was profoundly put off her lunch by El Duce and the boys. But what’s bound to unnerve Ms. Love, more than the Mentors’ X-rated titty-clitty rhyming schemes and the oafish Male Chauvinist Pigotry, is the disembodied presence on Over the Top of El Duce himself. For those of you not in the know, El Duce was the original frontman/buffoon/bozo laureate of the Mentors and he cut a figure something along the lines of the Benny Hill of scum punk-metal. He was fat, toadish, and oftentimes drunk off his ass, and his leering pervert persona seemed to be made that much more genuine by virtue of a pair of bugged out eyes provided to him by a case of Grave’s Disease. If you could somehow cross GG Allin with Russ Meyer with a stack of Hustler cartoons, you’d be getting close to classic El Duce territory. Thing is, is that right about the time that El was really enjoying his growing notoriety, something in his head—possibly the alcohol-soaked neurons—made him start shooting his mouth off about how Courtney Love had offered him $50,000 to whack her husband at the time, Kurt Cobain. And it wasn’t long after shooting his mouth off that poor El danced with a moving train on his way home from the liquor store one day and wound up smeared across the railroad tracks like100 proof strawberry preserves. And it wasn’t too long after that, that some of the more cynically-minded among rock’n’roll insiders dared suggest that Courtney Love had Francis Bean lure the drunken, horny blabbermouth onto the tracks and into the path of the speeding locomotive. Whether it really went down that way or not is anyone’s guess. All I know for sure is that if Courtney didn’t have a problem having someone kill a big celebrity like Kurt Cobain, she sure as hell wouldn’t have a problem having someone kill a scurrilous bum like El Duce. Which brings me back to my original point: if Ms. Love really was responsible for doing in El Duce, then the sounds burned into the grooves of Over the Top (the first ever Mentors’ release without El Duce) are likely to provide her with her own ghastly little trip into the Twilight Zone. You see, as Courtney and Francis Bean and everyone knows, El is supposed to be well dead; his decaying meat suit long since converted into an underground Disney World for various microbes, ants, and worms and whatnot. But if you didn’t know any better you’d swear it’s him, the original El Duce, singing on this new record. The official line is, I’m sure, that this “El Rapo” guy supposedly singing these new songs is merely an eerily similar sounding replacement, sorta like how the second Darren was eerily similar to the first Darren back on the old Bewitched TV series. But how do we know that Sickie Wifebeater and Heathen Scum haven’t spent the years since El’s “convenient elimination” honing their Ouija board skills, somehow managing to channel the spirit of their old lead singer from beyond the grave and convincing him to belt out a few more tunes? I have been lucky enough to have had several drunken phone conversations with Sickie and I can tell you that he is something of a necromancer and he is possessed of certain dark and extra-mundane skills beyond those he displays on the electrified guitar. But if it really is the recorded sounds of El broadcasting from the Great Beyond, it would seem that the one thing that doesn’t transfer all that well from the one realm to the other is his trademark sense of humor. I guess, considering all the gunk like ether and ectoplasm that can clog up inter-worldly transmissions, it’s little surprise something might get lost along the way. It’s just too bad that it was his inimitable stupid/clever sense of humor. The truth is: any one of the tracks on this disc could easily be slipped into a mix of old Mentors’ tunes without anyone noticing—they are that true to the classic Mentor sound. And the voice truly sounds like El Duce, whether it’s piped in from some netherworld or just this new “El Darren” guy. But the twisted porno booth humor just isn’t as twisted as when El was fully animated in his boozy flesh suit. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of amusing bits throughout Over the Top. Like the song “Inches of Three,” for example, my personal favorite among the crop of new songs. And any way you cut it, OTT is leagues above the flatulent dreck being pumped out by some uninspired Mentors-wannabe like Anal Blast. This really is a very solid comeback effort and a damn good album to boot. In fact, it’s a lot better than I’m probably making it sound here in this review. I guess I’m just realizing how much I miss ol’ Eldon Hoke. Having a band with El Duce as your frontman is definitely an example of catching white lightning in a bottle. This CD is proof of that.
–aphid (Mentors, www.churchofelduce.com)