Imagining rock music without GWAR is like imagining film without Troma, or TV without South Park. GWAR gave shock rock its sense of humor back and reinvented it as something edgier, funnier and sicker. In a genre that does comedy better than any other kind of music (Spinal Tap, Steel Panther, Dethklok, Austrian Death Machine, S.O.D., Cheech and Chong's "Earache My Eye,") GWAR does it best.
Nothing is taboo at a GWAR show. They dismembered George W. Bush for eight years, then started mutilating Barack Obama before he'd even taken the oath of office. Every show has more jokes about sex abuse, terrorist attacks and bodily fluids than any Aristocrats routine. Imagine Bill Maher's antitheism without his self-importance, or Bill Hicks' misanthropy with a headbanging soundtrack. Their show is regularly updated to reflect the week's events, with no attempt to pander to anyone, even metalheads (Sample banter: "Glad to hear Randy Blythe has
escaped the clutches of the infamous Czech justice system. Now he can
get back where he belongs, blowing me.") If it's sacred, GWAR will destroy it.
In all my years of taking friends to metal shows, only once has a band has ever inspired one of my buddies to leave early in disgust. It was in 2009, when GWAR were ripping the newly-deceased Michael Jackson's face off and gruesomely eating a few babies. My friend, a sensible and cultured guy who is neither religious nor conservative, could not take it. It'd be one thing to offend a Michele Bachmann type, who probably thinks that Coldplay is Satanic death metal, but watching GWAR offend a guy who went to Sarah Lawrence College with me was something else altogether. As long as there's a room for GWAR to obliterate, rock n' roll will never become safe or stale.
But don't dismiss GWAR as being gross for the sake of being gross. GWAR are first rate showmen, social critics and comedians, not to be lumped in with the Slipknots and Lordis that cop and dilute GWAR's style. Unlike their humorless shock rock followers, GWAR never let commercial aspirations get in the way of a great time. In an interview last year, bandleader Oderus Urungus quoted Rob Zombie as (reportedly) saying, "The first time I saw GWAR, I thought
‘I want to be that, but I want to make money.’" "That to me says a lot
about Rob Zombie as an artist," stated Urungus. "It says that he isn’t one."
He didn't have to go any further and call himself an artist, because, as anyone who's seen GWAR will attest, that fact is never in question. Shock rockers and shock humorists come and go almost as quickly as boy bands, but nearly 30 years into their career, GWAR are funnier and wilder than ever, leaving countless Mudvaynes and Mushroomheads in their bloody dust. GWAR beat on, boats against the current, boors ceaselessly into the future.