Never Bet The Devil Your Head


550 Music/Epic, 1997

REVIEW BY: Pete Crigler


After the tragic deaths of frontman Jack Vigiliatura and bassist Bill White, the surviving members of For Squirrels – guitarist Travis Tooke and drummer Jack Griego – picked up the pieces. With Tooke taking over the vocals and Floridian friend Andy Lord recruited on bass, the band continued on as For Squirrels until the summer of 1996. Then, they changed the name to Subrosa and packed up to a Canadian studio with producer Nick Launay (Midnight Oil, Silverchair) to create a record that needed to be made in the wake of this massive tragedy that had befallen the band.

Anyone expecting a melodic grunge type album like For Squirrels’ Example is in for a massive shock, starting from the very first track. “World’s Greatest Lover” screams to the world that this is a new, much louder band, get used to it. Tooke’s vocals involve a lot more screaming and exasperation than Vigiliatura’s, but with the new, harsher music, the vocals suit everything so damn well. “Damn The Youth” is a bit more melodic with some almost soothing melodies, but this record is one of the loudest and most pissed off records to come out that year.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Buzzard” was the first single and it’s loud, abrasive and fun! Totally different from For Squirrels but welcoming in a new era for the guys. They’ve taken control of their own sound, injecting more punk influence and not really caring about how many records they sell. The record takes an interesting twist with the tongue-twisting “Antigen Fiend,” which is full of some of the most mind-bending rhymes ever heard on a rock record. Needless to say an English professor would be filled with glee over how much rhyming is present here. Tooke even acknowledges the rhyming in a line in a later song. Meanwhile, “Never The Best” is another quick rave up of a track that really heightens the energy of the whole record.

Towards the end of the disc, the mood takes a turn for the downtrodden and depressing: “Murder An Angel,” one of the best songs here, appears to be about Frances Farmer, a Hollywood actress from the ‘40s’ and ‘50s, and her struggle with illness. “Lullaby To The Enemy” is another slow burner of a track but the band’s musicianship makes everything work and Tooke’s dynamism behind the mic is so explosive it seems like he’s exorcising more than demons on many tracks.

The final track, “Pretend” is an ode to Vigiliatura, White and tour manager Tim Bender, wishing they were still on this planet. The line “the world minus three now, what good is it for?” just goes for the throat and the whole song is just very moving and emotional; hearing it, you can really what the guys were going through while making this record.

This record is one of the more underrated records of the late ‘90s post-grunge era. Unfortunately, people were more interested in Fuel or Creed than Subrosa and by the beginning of 2000, the band had gone their separate ways. Do yourselves a favor and buy it on Amazon or some bargain bin and have yourself a helluva time.

Rating: B+

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