Cereal Killer Soundtrack
Zoo Entertainment, 1993
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/30/1997
Back when I was in college radio, I was invited by a friend of mine who worked for BMG Music to stop by his office and preview some demo tapes. He and I had worked together in college radio, and while our musical tastes differed greatly, we both respected each other's opinions.
Anthony introduced me to some great groups that made it (like Tool) and others that didn't (like Blue Train). But the coup de grace was when he put on a tape in the player behind his desk. What I heard spew from the speakers was amazing - the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy In The U.K." with a Flintstones theme.
"Anthony," I asked, "who the hell are these guys?" "Green Jello," he said, "a band we're thinking about signing."
I looked at him and said: "Anthony, if Zoo doesn't sign these guys, you're idiots. This band is the new Dead Milkmen." I tried to beg a copy of the tape off of him, but he couldn't give it out.
About 18 months later, there they were in the bins of Sound Warehouse - signed to Zoo. (They would be sued by General Foods for use of the word "Jello" - they would change it to "Jelly," but it just isn't the same to me.) Cereal Killer Soundtrack was a slab of incredible music from a band who professed that they "suck," something which they don't do.
A side note: Green Jelly was originally supposed to be a "video-only" band, so many of these songs may seem lost without their accompanying videos. If you can still find it - and there are a few video stores which have copies - grab the original release of the Cereal Killer video - the one without the album cover illustration on the front.
Green Jelly was a combination of off-beat humor, visual gags (giant-sized masks they learned to make from members of Gwar, eyeball-breast bras) and some incredible hard rock. The melodies may occasionally have been simple, but the humor was there - much more, in fact, than the Dead Milkmen ever came close to reaching. The highlight of this album for me was "Cereal Killer," though the album edit loses the real joke. On the original home video, the main character, "Toucan Son Of Sam," kills the Trix rabbit, Lucky the Leprechaun, and those three elves from Rice Krispies in a manner that would have made Sam Peckinpah proud. It's hilarious, and must be sought out.
Of course, Cereal Killer will always be remembered for its fluke hit "Three Little Pigs," complete with claymation video. Critics may say the song is just one riff, and they may be right about that. But at least the song can stand alone without the accompanying video - you can almost see the storyline without turning on the television. Other songs like "Obey The Cowgod" are great on their own, but when you hear likes like "Where's those two boneheads?" you may wonder what they're referring to.
Another trump card in Green Jelly's hand is that they're masters of the parody. "Anarchy In The U.K." not only is a close-to-the-bone cover of the original, but the Flintstones references (including an imitation of Barney Rubble hidden in the mix) hit just at the right times. They throw in a pretty good "Enter Sandman" riff on "Electric Harley House Of Love," though I thought the song was strong enough to hold its own without borrowing from Metallica. And they do a damn good cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on "Trippin' On XTC."
There's only one real dud on this one - "The Misadventures Of Shitman," a song which I couldn't get into in 1993 and still can't today. Scatalogical jokes are not uncommon in rock - check out Frank Zappa's "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes" off Sheik Yerbouti - but this one almost goes out of its way to be gross. The video doesn't help matters much, though I'll admit I haven't seen it an a few years.
The public favor fell off this band pretty quickly - their followup album 333 stiffed. (I just got around to picking up a copy, and haven't had a chance to listen to it - mainly 'cause I can't bear to take Cereal Killer Soundtrack off my stereo.) And this is a damn shame - it's not often you find a band who can look at rock and roll - and their own strengths and weaknesses - and laugh at them. Fortunately, Green Jelly had the foresight to think ahead, and started a production company off the fruits of their first labor. They have since done work for many other bands, and even contribute to cable networks like HBO ("Mr. Show").
One note: Supposedly Maynard James Keenan does some guest vocals with Green Jelly - but damned if I can hear him on this one. There is a reference to a Maynard on "Green Jello Theme" - oops, I mean "Green Jelly Theme"... damned first edtion - but I think I would know Keenan's banshee wail when I heard it.
Cereal Killer Soundtrack is an album I can look back on and smile about - I knew it would make an impact one day, and it did. If you can, though, ditch the re-named job and search out an original copy of both the album and video. It's a hell of a way to spend an hour.
I often wonder what happened to Anthony - he recently got a "thank you" credit on Veruca Salt's debut - and what he's doing with himself these days. If anyone from BMG or Zoo is reading, tell him I said "hi" - if he remembers who I am. And, tell him "thanks" - I owe him a lunch for the free show he gave me that afternoon.