A while back, I came across what Earache Records called the World’s Shortest Album – It is a compilation of sub-ten second tracks from various extreme grindcore acts from the Earache roster. One that caught my attention was Anal Cunt’s ‘Howard Wulkan’s Bald’. It wasn’t the band’s name though. It was the burning question: Who the hell is Howard Wulkan, and in Anal Cunt-style, were they teasing some guy after his chemotherapy? After all, this is the band behind ‘Hitler Was a Sensitive Man’.
After a bit of nosing around online, I found that more resources had gone into reminding Wulkan of his baldness. Seven minutes in fact. The ‘HOWARD IS BALD’ EP. This should be the worst thing ever put to tape. The ever distasteful Anal Cunt (you weren’t expecting that to taste good were you?) and their almost unlistenable dense waves of unintelligible noise couldn’t possibly bring a grin to anyone aside from mad fans. Or so I thought. Why am I coming to this album’s defence? Because when listening to it en route to Tesco today, I almost cried.
Here is an example of an album that should get a zero, but it’s so ridiculous and ticks so many right boxes regarding what listeners and reviewers want, that it may make you question your taste in music. For example:
The EP has an interesting backstory
Much to my surprise, no they weren’t being too nasty. It just turns out that Earache Records executive Howard Wulkan, was going bald. On one drunken night in 1995, Seth Putnam, Tim Morse and Scott Hull decided to record some music. The result was seven minutes of them singing with a vocabulary very rarely straying from four words. ‘Howard’, ‘Wulkan’, ‘is’ and ‘bald’ if you were wondering.
OK, that really isn’t that interesting, but it’s a very welcome deviation from the norm. Every album comes with a tale about how ‘from the heart’ the content is. This song is about my break-up. This song is about my grandmother. This song is for all those inflicted with famine. I’m sure they are heart-wrenching subjects. However, nowhere have I heard of an album that was for Howard Wulkan, and I doubt that I will do any time soon. It wasn’t made for anyone aside from themselves, meaning that it wasn’t a conscious novelty record. Speaking of why they did it…
It was actually released
Let’s face it – this record is obviously of extremely poor quality, in more ways that one. To begin with, it was recorded to four cassette tapes, one for each band member, and one for Mr Wulkan. Six years later, the decision was made to self-release a limited edition vinyl (only 53 copies). Despite its poor quality, or maybe even because of its poor quality, it remained a legendary artefact amongst the AxCx fandom.
With any other band, it would have been analysed and lauded as a marvellous example of the networks of microgenres and subcultures. But, this is Anal Cunt that we are talking about…
The majority of this EP’s nine tracks (in seven minutes) consist of the band screaming and (unlike their usual output) singing over existing well-known songs. Bee Gees’ ‘If I Can’t Have You’ and ‘You Should Be Dancing’, become ‘If I Can’t Have Hair’ and ‘You Should Be Balding’.
Supposedly, changing a song’s lyrics to ‘Howard is Bald’ isn’t all that clever or creative. Oh, really? So, why didn’t you do it first?
And the EP’s grand finale comes in the form of ‘Howard Wulkan (Wesley Willis Version)’ True to its name, it’s about some guy he knows (“I know I guy named Howard Wulkan. He is really bald.”), satirically in the infamous style of Wesley Willis, speaking to the listener about Howard’s head. Some may say that considering Seth’s standard style, that it would be sacrilege, but Putnam’s impression is bizarrely accurate. According to ex-band member Josh Martin, Putnam was a big fan of Willis.
On the subject of choosing chirpy songs…
It isn’t offensive
After being criticised for their offensive nature, the band released a satirical album entitled Picnic of Love. Against the rest of their catalogue it appears to be a humourously ironic response – a collection of comparatively calm love songs. However, this lighthearted record had very little motive, and it grabs your attention without even bothering with the dirty words that so many do these days. With just two uses of the word ‘fuck’, it is probably one of the least profane records in their discography.
The album cover
Just look at it…
Rock on Howard.
EDIT 2019: Thanks to Earache Records for sharing this post. This turned out to be far more productive than it had any right to be.
I wrote this back when I was studying journalism at university. I was compiling a portfolio and churned this out for fun. As Earache shared it, this got literally thousands of hits overnight. This was a hilarious pain in the backside because this, as well as my very profane interview with Steel Panther became the most read content on this blog, and I had to submit it as a project.
However, this connected me to Earache’s Artist Liaison Emma Bardill (who called me a “true gent” for analysing AxCx in much further depth than most), and they very kindly co-operated with me on my final dissertation.
Recently, I was floored when I was contacted by Howard Wulkan himself who thanked me for writing this. It makes me very happy to know that the man himself enjoyed it! This page gets a wave of hits whenever he shares it!