First Blood

(Goner; 2010)

By Alan Baban | 17 January 2011

Love Visions was no-friction, carbon copy rock ‘n roll: the sound of one man laying dynamite underneath his record collection. Nobunny (aka Justin Champlin) very audibly had a blast on his first full-length album, and its follow-up, First Blood, is another woozy hailstorm of highly-charged shit-kicking fun. Listen: sticks just don’t exist in this crazy man’s universe, OK? First Blood is all carrot, all the time. Every song boils down to a hard knuckle-sandwich of rock fanaticism and cannoning hooks, and every song is powered through by the type of nineteen to the dozen, probably ill delivery that you can’t fake without a rabbit mask. First Blood is the real deal, once again: outdated, ludicrous and always dumb, puerile and entertaining. And yes, if you’re asking, dude is still wearing that fucking frightening bunny mask. It’s good to know that some things never change. Almost. (We’ll get to that.)

Champlin doesn’t mince his steps across these eleven tracks, most of which push around the two minute mark and pack in a surprising amount of variety. First Blood definitely sounds more assured than the debut, less needle-sharp and less inclined to rubberstamp its presence before the first verse. “Breathe” is even (almost!) a ballad: a slow-jam Status Quo riff on a collision course with some greasy strings, all of it recoiling around Champlin’s cock-shy delivery. Of course, he frickin’ breathes out loud during the chorus. On the snappy self-abasement of “(Do the) Fuck Yourself,” he positively ululates. “I Was On (The Bozo Show)” closes the album with some hothouse clown music. So, best of all, as per last time, is the naughty-kid snarl of Mr. Nobunny himself. One imagines him following several microphones down a canyon. His inflections, even those snarky throwaway “Uhhs!”, hit at a rabid terminal velocity. His delivery—part the entire cast of Looney Tunes discharging into softcore porn, part gospel—makes and breaks this material, keeps it from approaching kitsch. He sounds genuinely bothered, even when, as on “Ain’t It a Shame”’s opening kiss-off, he apparently isn’t.

The one real criticism that I’d level at First Blood is that, if anything, it’s a bit too much of a grab-bag. The volte-face that takes us from the carefree Velvets stomp of “Blow Dumb” to the brickbat power pop of “Gone for Good” and then to “Pretty Please Me”’s country-vomit is somehow a bit off. At least compared to the closing stretch of the album (“Live it Up” through “Pretty Little Trouble”) which is just about perfect. It’s really a niggly point, because if you loved Love Visions then First Blood is just about cut from the debut’s careening wonder-show of win. Still, great album.