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Metal gone mad (continued)

Different, at least. "Weíll Drink in the Pit Tonite" is likely one declaration Thom Yorke has never made. But as Okay Computerís first track, itís Robby Road Steamerís manifesto: a guttural pummeling, exploding with soaring Aquanet-metal guitars, nuclear detonations, and a chorus of chanting rowdies seething with Bud lust. The bestial dirge "Iím Sorry Your Cat Has Ass Cancer" is a gothic death song echoing with Exorcist-theme piano and chilling cymbal washes. ("Devil knocking at the door. Kittyís pooperís a little sore. Mommy? Whatís the priest here for?") And "Crucial Dude," a hurtling fusillade about fighting in coin-op laundromats and beating up hipsters in trucker hats, rides the lightning on some stroboscopic speed-metal shredding.

But Robby Road Steamer is much more than macho metal bombast. Heís also a sensitive lover man. "Naked Except for Socks" is a bedroom ballad with pretty piano. "Youíre the Only Girl I Wanna Plow" is his reassurance to a reticent groupie that she and only she is the apple of his eye ó at least until her sister turns 18. "Give Me One Pump in the Tour Van" is a tender tearjerker about the rushed love of life on the road. And on the Springsteen-esque "Finger Blastiní," Robby remembers tender moments: "Your hair danced softly, just like it did in Latin class. We went to Friendlyís, got grilled-cheese sandwiches. Your dad was at work. Your mom was out shopping. We played Nintendo" ó his voice drops to a sensual whisper ó "and we started something."

Yet itís the wistful "Salem Elks Lodge Serenade," more boss than the Boss, thatís his masterstroke. Littered with images of his North Shore life ó an í83 Atari, a bottle of Zima, a plastic hunting knife ó itís your invitation to join him there, to come where he lives. "I got muscles you havenít seen, and Iím so stoned; we can make super ninja babies till my mom comes home. I got a cure for death if you want to give it up. Tonight."

Robby Road Steamer is no Johnny One Note. When not laying waste to the stage with his band, he moonlights as a kamikaze stand-up comedian, assaulting audiences with stinging, Mametesque head scratchers ó "Youíre a failure on three different levels!" or "Iíll kick your ass with a pencil sharpener!" ó while DíAmico noodles on the keyboard. But his real pet project is his television series, The Robby Road Steamer Show, which airs weekly on public-access stations all over Greater Boston and in New York City. Itís a warts-and-all glimpse at the quotidian existence of a suburban rock titan. Watch Robby play video games with Susi in his cluttered room! Marvel at the apoplectic rants of Aaron "King Wizard"! See what really went on at Okay Computer recording sessions! In its way, the show humanizes this heavy-metal godhead. Robby watches the Red Sox lose Game Seven and suffers through sausage-hang parties in his shoebox Salem apartment. Sorta like you and me.

Doing the show was instinctual, he says. "Musicís been great to me. But what am I gonna do, stay with music until she gets old and ugly and I have nothing left to do with her? No, Iím gonna dominate another hot blonde: TV. And Iím gonna come up with the greatest TV show of all time. And I did. Next, I might go out and take up knitting. And Iíll knit the best fuckiní sweater."

Robby finds comfort in the cozy confines of the North Shore suburbs where he was raised. Although he may soon move to New York City to further his quest for worldwide multimedia domination, his muse could come from nowhere else but the land of lawn ornaments and strip malls. "Thatís where all great music comes from! When people look back at great music, itís made by white kids. We are the music industry. Me lifting weights on Revere Beach ó thatís how itís fucking built! We make songs about hooking up with mediocre girls and drinking Colt 45. Weíre the ones bringing up the real issues. Chevy Corsicas! Ataris!

"In the suburbs, if you make an album, you get laid. In Boston, everyoneís making a fuckiní album. In the suburbs, all you need to do is make that fuckiní album, bring it to your local sports bar, and flash it to a girl and youíre gonna get some. In the suburbs, the bar is lowered. If you appear in a article in the Salem Evening News? Shit! Youíre gonna get so much trim."

But how does Robby Road Steamer respond to those whoíd accuse him of being just a big joke, a mere caricature of heavy-metal machismo? "A . . . caricature?! How can you say Iím a caricature of a rock star when I sell out the Middle East?! On this album, I separate myself from the pack. I bring it up a notch. I fulfill the promise that I am heaven on earth. I am the gift of music."

Robby Road Steamer performs this Saturday, August 28, at the Comedy Studio, 1236 Massachusetts Avenue in Harvard Square. Tickets are $9; call (617) 661-6507. And he plays with the Sweatpant Boners next Friday, September 3, at the Middle East, 472 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square. Tickets are $9; call (617) 864-EAST.

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Issue Date: August 27 - September 2, 2004
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