The Crack Pipes
Snakes in My Veins (Emperor Jones)
Reviewed by Matt Dentler, Fri., Nov. 14, 2003
The Crack PipesSnakes in My Veins (Emperor Jones) Just as Snakes in My Veins begins descending irrevocably into Mudhoney grunge, a life raft is thrown. The raft is dead-on Dylan homage "Super Motel 8," and as the fifth track on the local punk-blues band's third full-length, it acts as a segue into a powerful onslaught of garage rock. Lead pipe Ray Pride goes from mumbling angst-rider to Americana preacher on toxically simple but emotionally involving songs like "The World Is a Crooked Place" and "Never Happy." On the album's title track, Pride seems to be battling more personal demons than just unrequited love, with lines like, "Cry sweet tears, I'll never be the same/Oh Lord, I've got snakes in my veins." More often than not, the Crack Pipes shine like the best of 'em, with the carefree chaos of weathered vets. Yet, it's actually the covers of old classics (Aretha Franklin's "Save Me" and the Animals' fuzzed-out "I'm Going to Change the World") that sound most contemporary and exciting. These established hits also exhibit the band's weakness at tightening its own reins; while Snakes is full of noisy fun, the band sounds like it's ready to collapse on overlong songs like the gospel rant of "(I Hear My) Special Rider." There's a classic album lurking underneath the Crack Pipes' talents, and Snakes in My Veins slithers and shakes in the right direction.