Root Boy Slim takes a little getting used to. The shirt with the house kays sewn on it, the kid's Indian headdress, the lurching around on stage. But mostly it's the voice - the voice of a garbage disposal unit gone bersek. The sweetest thing this side of heaven he's not.
And Root Boy's songs, as performed in unison (more or less) with the Sex Change Band and the Rootcttes, have a shall-we-say piquancy all their own. Things like "You Broke My Mood Ring," "Boogie Till You Puke," "Christmas at K-Mart" and the wrenching "Heartbreak of Psoriasis." A little getting used to as advertised.
Root Boy can never be recommended to timid souls, and will not be co-opted by everyone's parents the way the Beatles were. But all is not lost. For those who care to listen. Root Boy manages to be a source of fascination and enjoyment, a wry benchmark in the history of rock. he might end up photographed by Avedon for an appearance in Vogue or he might disappear without a trace, but for Root Boy, one feels very strongly, there will be no middle ground.
Imagine everything that's gone into rock since its beginnings, all the influences from the Missippi blues to Maharishi mysticism, imagine all that reduced down and funncied into one ultimate, inevitable end product and you've got Root Boy Slim, the biodegradable landfill of rock 'n' roll.
Whenever rock crities come up against something they don't like, any thing from the pap of the Captain and Tennille splat of Kiss, they are liable to talk somberly of "the end of rock music as we know it." Root Boy, however, decidedly unsomber, is the real thing, the genuine apocalyptic apotheosis.
His mordant humor helps in that role, as does a certain mocking, unlooked-for intelligence, an intelligence that's visible in his eyes on matter how far back they go in his head, and they go back pretty far.Confront him with a Wittgenstein T-shirt, for instance, and he asks if you've read the Tractatus. Not bad for a rock star.
What Root Boy has done in his songs and even in his name, is a kind of reductio ad absurdam, taking a lot of the old standard themes of rock and pushing them with enormous gust to the limits of the ridiculous.
Instead of "You're Sixteen, You're Beautiful and You're Mine" we get "I'm Not Too Old For You" with its plaintive refrain of "When You're 16, I'll Just Be 32." Somehow, only Root Boy seems to have noticed that boogieing till you puke has replaced having Fun, Fun, Fun as today's bttom line.
Rock's totems have been mocked before, and the line extends from Frank Zappa and the Mothers' "You Didn't Try To Call Me" of a decade back to Marty Mull and Randy Newman. But while those seemed exuberant, even healthy responses. Root Boy is manie, driven - a dancer on the grave, yet a whole lot of fun to boot. He tells us it's all ever with suclt fieree, hopeiess, enthusiasm that we can't help but love him for letting us know.