Review Rewind: USS Horsewhip-…Wants You Dead

1,405. that’s how many local recordings have been reviewed in What’s Up! over the last 15 years. Some good, some not so good, all offering something to the local scene and in these pages. A review was and will always be a band’s chance to get some press and show folks what they are doing. If a band lives around here, or on a local label, we review it and have never turned anyone away if they met one of those qualifications. Among the recordings reviewed, a few really stood out for one reason or another – it might have been how good it was or the impact it had on the scene or the statement at that time. This issue, we re-reviewed 15 of our favorite records over the last 15 years (and included a blurb from the original review) and talked not just about the music, but why the recording is important in the music scene’s history. Every one of these recordings should be on your iTunes, find ‘em, listen to ‘em, love ‘em. We do.


May 2005: “I concluded was that the band put their all into this record, making this USS Horsehip’s meaniest recording yet.”


I can think of maybe two or three other records made by Bellingham bands during my tenure in town (2000-09) that may be better, but USS Horsewhip’s Wants You Dead will always be my favorite.  With this record, Horsewhip’s only full-length and made with their strongest lineup (James Burns, vocals/guitar; Brian Slodysko, guitar/vocals; Richy Boyer, drums; Ryan Greer, bass/vocals), these four self-proclaimed “assholes” captured everything about living and making music in Bellingham at that time.

What really makes this record standout then and now is that Horsewhip was lucky to feature one of the finest lyricists to ever call Bellingham home.  You have songs about the encroaching gentrification of downtown (“Three Dog Nightmare”); working a shitty retail job because what the fuck other jobs are you going to find in this town (“1-800-PUPPIES”); brutally rocking songs defining both the line in the sand drawn by the band (“Amish Rake Fight”) and the harsh reality of being a no-name band on the road (“Jeff Mitchell vs. Robocop”).  Yeah, you can put your fist in the air and throw cans of beer at them while Brian is climbing the speaker columns, but there is a lot more to these songs than could be picked up from a couple of pummelings at the 3B or D Street.

But the boldest song on Wants You Dead is without a doubt “Break Out The Make Out”.  With the exception of Federation X’s “Gone Too Long,’ there isn’t another song on a Bellingham rock album that hits as hard emotionally.  James perfectly captured moments from the bar scene of our mid-20s, from the after effects of a long night of drinking Sparks (“Spinning from the alcohol/Wide awake from the caffeine”) and the regrets of one too many drunken nights downtown (“I left my heart on Chestnut Street in the alley/When the cab came I checked for cameras”).

Yes, these guys were “assholes” with funny song titles, but there is a lot more to this record that still brings me back to it eight years later.  Do yourself a favor and head down to Everyday and find one of the scuffed used copies for $0.99 that Richy likely sold them.  Do YOU remember when the songs we sang were how we really felt?  I’m glad I still do, and have Wants You Dead to prove it.

–Chris Rasmussen