Stabbing Westward

This is an early strip and it ain’t that great. I feel that works thematically with the band in question. I mean, do you even remember who I’m talking about?

This might jog your memory; what do you think of when I say the name “Duke Nukem”?

  1. A villain who threatens the environment from a 1990s cartoon
  2. The muscle-bound, chauvinist protagonist from a popular PlayStation game
  3. The borderline-parody protagonist of the most delayed video game in the history of the medium, which, when finally bought out and completed by another company, contained womens’ boobies growing from the walls, with an option to slap them around

Why would I make that up? Why would I make you look at it? Why would anybody? Who would think to do something like that?!?

If you answered #2, then you played Duke Nukem: Time To Kill on PlayStation in the late 90s. It was a pretty fun game, and if you shot the strippers in the club, Duke himself would talk shit about you, before a squad of interdimensional “pig cops” beamed in to teach you a lesson. It wasn’t as great as the PC games that preceded it, but it was a lot of fun nonetheless. Duke was already known in the computer world for irreverent, action-hero-style shooters. This was his first console foray. For the proper fanfare, the developers included a real song to go with Duke’s entrance; “The Thing I Hate”, by Stabbing Westward.

It even contains the word “shit”. Cursing in video games was still a big deal in 1998.

(By the way, this would be Stabbing Westward’s best song, but there’s not a ton of competition for that spot.)

It wasn’t a game that you played in front of your girlfriend, but luckily, it came along at a time when no gamers had girlfriends. Duke Nukem grew synonymous with shame and disappointment. This probably extended to Stabbing Westward, but they’d come to know those things early on:

Christopher Hall and Walter Flakus formed the band Stabbing Westward when they were in college. They came up with the name while working at the college radio station WIUS-FM. In a 1996 interview, Hall stated, “Since we went to Western Illinois University, Stabbing Westward had a certain ‘kill everybody in the school’ vibe to it! The school’s way out in farm country and the country is really close minded. I was walking around like Robert Smith with real big hair, big baggy black clothes, black fingernail polish and eye makeup. They just didn’t get it. We hated the town.” [Wikipedia]

I’m no sociologist, but if you’re a guy who puts on make-up and acts like an asshole around folks who have to do farm work, you’re giving them no reason to like you, or even be nice. Maybe the farmers were big Cure fans, and they thought you were a lousy imitator. It’s not that they didn’t “get it”, it’s more that you were Warped-tour detritus, at best. I mean, let’s be realistic here.

Have a listen to Nine Inch Nails’ “Terrible Lie”, off pretty hate machine (1989). Pay close attention to the higher-pitched sample that comes in after the lyric “I want so much to believe”, at 3:27.

Okay? That’s the “bloopy part” from “Terrible Lie”, the song that is sheer torture if blasted by someone in an adjacent area. Now, while that’s fresh in your mind, here’s “What Do I Have To Do?” from Stabbing Westward’s 1996 album Wither Blister Burn & Peel. Pay close attention to the bridge, after the lyric “Tell me, tell me” at 2:58:

It’s not exactly the same thing, but how derivative does that feel? Christopher Hall talks about emulating Robert Smith while at college, and I think Stabbing Westward’s music betrays a similar lack of originality. It was like stuff that you listened to until you found something better. I even recall a fellow music clerk at Media Play goofing on me for even seeming to like the above song; all day, he followed me around, breathily mocking the title line, over and over.

That’s the explanation of the “bloopy part” panel.

In the back pages of the 2nd issue of Jim Goad’s ANSWER Me! from 1992, is a list of humorous band-name suggestions. A then-current trend of one-word names is noted, with a short list of deliberately mundane suggestions. The list includes “Milk”, which according to five seconds of searching has apparently been widely used (and has something to do with Big Brother‘s Jeff Tremaine), but the biggest one you’d definitely recognize if I spoke it aloud.


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