Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dave Brockie and Oderus Urungus

If Oderus Urungus were to write an obituary for Dave Brockie, no doubt he would fill it with tasteless jokes about how much his music sucked, how idiotic his fans were and what sexual position he was crushed in while he died screaming. But like nearly everyone else in the world, I don't have the wit or the fearlessness to make you laugh about something as awful as the news that Brockie and Urungus died this week at the age of 50 and 43 billion, respectively.

I will stand on my desk and say that GWAR is one of the greatest metal bands ever. Call it hyperbolic or overemotional, and maybe it is a fanatical thing to say about a band whose music was fine at best. But metal is best enjoyed from the stage and not from your home speakers, and no band ruled the stage like GWAR. Sure, Mastodon and Neurosis write better songs. But who would you rather see in the flesh?

Flesh was one of the only things you were guaranteed at a GWAR show. Sometimes it was Justin Bieber's, the Pope's, the President's, a Dictator's or Jesus Christ of Nazareth's, but it never took long to get ripped apart and land on the front row. The banter was hilarious ("God has a son? Let's crucify that motherfucker!"), the costumes were fantastic and the show was always unpredictable--no telling who would get killed next, or what monster would emerge from backstage. Up until the end, Oderus was making fun of Nelson Mandela and his self-congratulating mourners, laughing at Flight 370 conspiracies and picking fights with Kerry King. Even his fans got offended, from metalheads upset about his jokes at As I Lay Dying's expense or Kevin Smith getting provoked into a Twitter fight when Oderus pointed out (correctly) that Smith's reality show was a waste of time.

Actually, Urungus was right about most things, including social issues ("So Utah is going to repeal gay marriage, but you can still have ten sister mama wives. Reminds me of a planet I crushed. Planet of the Morons."), American ignorance ("Dude from Syria gasses 3000 of his own people and what do Americans care about? Miley Cyrus acting like a retard!") and how to make listeners laugh and retch in the same sentence ("O.K. you worthless piles of rancid phlegm...give me not one but two reasons why I shouldn't have sex with this dead bear I found."). Like the best comedians, he brought up the worst things about society and made us feel better about them. But he was the only one who did it all while living as a metal god alien in charge of the greatest band of monsters, robots, humanoids and aliens to ever treat the universe with their presence.

The first time I saw GWAR was the first time I ever crowd-surfed by accident. I went home drenched in the blood of President George W. Bush, Saddam Hussein, Pope Benedict XVI and Arnold Schwarzenegger, giggling like Beavis and too electrified to care that I was soaking wet in the cold December air. I couldn't believe I got to live in a world with these barbarians. It felt like being Max in an R-rated version of Where the Wild Things Are. Of course I saw them every chance I could over the next few years, and as of 2012 they were better than ever. Their antitheist jokes were funnier than anything in God is Not Great or Religulous. They slaughtered both of the 2012 presidential candidates and forever changed the way I say the name "Rob Zombie." I was ready to go back and see it all again. It's going to be harder to deal with the next Rand Pauls and Vladimir Putins knowing that we're never going to see what their large intestines look like dripping from Oderus Urungus' mouth.

Up until the end, Brockie was finding new ways to be hilarious and repugnant. It's almost inevitable that every shock rock artist loses their bite (yesterday's Ozzy is today's Osbournes Reloaded), and that comedy acts have even shorter shelf lives than boy bands (Green Jellö, anyone? Dread Zeppelin?). But Oderus Urungus and GWAR were never neutered by the mainstream, whether stealing Empire Records with the best-ever metal cameo or telling off Greg Gutfeld on Oderus' Fox News appearances, before the channel reportedly banned Oderus for dismembering Sarah Palin and playing with her entrails. As of last month, they were still disembowling prime ministers and infuriating bureaucracies (in Australia, of all places), horrifying and thrilling audiences 30 years into their incomparable career.

But no matter how gross they got, GWAR always mattered by being funny. If they had just worn costumes and talked shit, they could have been Lordi. If they had taken themselves more seriously, they could have been Mudvayne. But instead they were GWAR, the most uproarious and convincingly extraterrestrial band in the world. Thank you Dave Brockie and Oderus Urungus, for making the galaxy a funnier place.

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