Could it be that the Asylum Street Spankers have turned the other cheek? The 10-piece, all-acoustic band's latest full-length CD, My Favorite Record, is practically mainstream compared to the troupe's earlier work. Its predecessor, Spanker Madness, was an irreverent look at drug use and the war on drugs, which guaranteed the Spankers would never share the stage with Celine Dion on Grammy night. Record includes 11 original compositions, a Willie Dixon cover, and not much kitsch.
But fear not, because 2002 was still a good year for the Spankers. The vaudevillian charm and iconoclastic humor that has endeared the band to its fans could be found on "Dirty Ditties," a four-song disc and worthy successor to its "Nasty Novelties" EP of a few years back. And frontman Spanker Wammo issued a solo CD called Songs at the Speed of Suck, with titles like "Charles Whitman Sampler," "Nero Fiddles While Tom Waits," and "Yahweh or the Highway." They even released a Christmas album last year.
Live is how the Spankers work best, though. Their mix of old-time jazz, blues, hillbilly fiddle tunes, and offbeat humor -- plus a Helen Kane (Betty Boop) impression by lead singer Christina Marrs -- is always stage-ready. "Unique" is a word batted about a lot by music journalists. This is one band that deserves that adjective.