Before Third Base took the stage at Gusto on Monday night, the guitar player for Hotel Chelsea, the band that played immediately prior, announced what the audience should expect: "They sound like three retards fucking a doorknob," he said.
Finding myself unable to imagine what exactly that would sound like, my interest was certainly piqued. Unfortunately, not much was done to hold that interest when Third Base took the stage.
The Boise band features members of several other Boise punk groups, most notably Jason Rucker, guitarist and singer for The Useless on guitar and vox. But rather than using the vaunted "side project" to try something new, the band sticks to a predictably safe pop-punk sound that seems to offer little Rucker couldn't likely accomplish in The Useless.
Overall, Third Base had the sort of big Marshall power-trio pop thrash sound popularized by bands like Propaghandi and Hi-Standard. It's becoming a bit of an oldie, but it's still a goodie. The songs had catchy-ish singalong choruses and memorable lyrics about "pterodactyl terrordomes" and ladies that insist Slayer be put on the hi-fi in order to "copulate." Between those elements, the tightness of the drumming and Rucker's singing voice being as full as his figure, it should be winning combo. Instead, it was more of a tragic strikeout.
The tragedy being that all the songs Third Base offered that night were written with a level of precision that outstripped their performance.
Now there's nothing wrong with sloppy drunk punk rock. Except that Third Base isn't a sloppy drunk punk band. Their arrangements featured breaks and stops and fills and riffs far beyond the vision or interest of their more inebriated brethren. The problem was that Third Base failed to fulfill their own objectives. They wrote precise music but didn't put the same effort into the performance of it.
It seemed a self-imposed fate more than a need for practice though. Numerous onstage references were made about the band's lack of effort. They played two covers, Danzig's "Mother"—hello obvious—and "Titty Twister" by Diesel Boy, neither of which they tried anything different with, which was a level of creative laziness. The band's apparent lack of effort even extended to their logo on the kick drum: a printed piece of 8.5-inch by 11-inch white paper with Third Base and a clip-art pterodactyl on it.
That nonchalant attitude turned what could be a savagely good—though dated—sound into just another entry into the slushpile of mediocrity ... about as exciting as a doorknob.