3AM Eternal: Steel Pole Bath Tub: Unlistenable (1996)

Steel Pole Bath Tub was a Montana-based noise band from the early 1990s, part of the Amphetamine Reptile/Melvins/Alternative Tentacles world, In one of the odder pairings of the alternative-rock era, Steel Pole Bath Tub wound up on a major label, London, via their signing to Slash Records. Why–or what–any major label would have seen in SPBT is beyond me. That’s not a criticism of the band, who consistently released wild, interesting, weird records–it’s just that the pairing is, well, as unlikely as you can get. Don’t worry; it didn’t take too long for the label to realize their error. Scars From Falling Down, their major label debut, was released in 1995. You didn’t hear it? There’s a reason for that. For a noise band, it had as about a quiet release as you can get.

We jump ahead, a year later, our heroes are working on their follow-up. They turn in their demos to a retiscent record label, who listen in horror what their signings have presented. “This is shit,” one executive says. “Unlistenable,” another one declares. “A soundtrack to nothing.” Naturally, the band is subsequently dropped, and quietly come to an end. In 2002, as a parting gift to the world, the band gathers up those demos and releases them as Unlistenable.

But are the demos truly “unlistenable?”

Not really, no. Easy listening they are not–but they’re not radically out of line with their previous work. The songs are the kinds of songs you’d expect on a Steel Pole Bath Tub. As long as you go into it with the understanding of the band’s M.O., then you’ll really not be too surprised with what you find. Many of the songs are mere sound collages and noise pieces–these were demos, after all–but are enjoyable for what they are, such as the pennywhistle on “Glad Ass” and the freakout of “Re-juvenilated.” There are also, surprisingly, three weird yet unrecognizable Cars covers, the best of the lot being “My Best Friend’s A Girl.”

Too bad that their label missed out on releasing this “soundtrack to nothing,” because it is good fun!

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