We’re kicking off 2018 with a look at the first album by a tragically overlooked band: O.L.D. or Old Lady Drivers.
Their self-titled 1988 debut album is an interesting little journey into how far metal, particularly the rather young grindcore genre can be pushed and how much variety you can have in an album and still sound like things go together.
Honestly, I’d rather just forego those labels and just call this one of the early avant-garde metal albums.
The lineup for this album is Alan Dubin on snarls/vocals, James Plotkin on guitar and bass, and Ralph Pimentell on drums. Dubin and Plotkin also played together in the doom metal group Khanate. Plotkin also made a name for himself as a music producer.
The standout on this album is of course, Dubin. His vocals are distinct and sometimes painful sounding. His range varies, but it is never actual singing on this album. His vocals kind of represent what O.L.D. is musically.
So, I went into this not knowing much about O.L.D. I saw their picture once in Metal Maniacs because their album Lo Flux Tube was on one of the writer’s playlists. I also heard their cover of Black Sabbath’s “Who are you?” which has appeared on a couple of different tribute albums.
The album kicks off with “Total Hag.” The guitar leads in with feed back accompanied by the snarling chant of “just because we’re old and gray doesn’t mean we’ll go away before kicking into blast beats. Alan Dubin stands out above other grindcore snarlers and screamers here, with vocally delivery matching the speed of Les Claypool, something he uses a couple of other time on the album in songs like “Die in your Beauty Sleep.”
The barely contained weirdness of “Total Hag” gives you a good feel for what’s to come. You will be served up grindcore, but it’s not going to be the way grindcore is usually served.
This album is full of speed ups, slow downs, stops, plucks, plongs and about anything else you can think of being done with a guitar.
Just when you think that you’ve settled into a comfortable space you could call avant-garde-core, the band slides a knife into your gut with the third track “Supermarket Monstrosity.” The vocals on this song are meant to sound as close as a child sucking helium as possible, and from the sound of it, helium could be involved. It’s a stripped down and kind of funky track, just kind of dropped into the middle of things without giving a damn about flow.
And it works.
“Wisdom Loss” is definitely the most memorable track, not only lyrially, but musically. Complimenting Dubin’s screams of “Where are my dentures? I really need my dentures! I can’t find my dentures! What the fuck are dentures?” is a sweet progressive metal melody that just gives it a larger feel despite the silly lyrics.
“I Laugh as I Chew,” “Colostomy Grab Bag” and “Old Ladies Always Break Their Hips” are kind of reminiscent of grunge. This is 1988, though, before grunge was a thing. Considering O.L.D. is from New Jersey, I can only think this may have been one of those parallel evolutions.
Just as you start to settle in for things to finish off the album, “Bathrooms Rule” comes on. It is musically one of the best tracks on the album, groovy and melodious, it combines the child like voice of “Supermarket Monstrosity” and Dubin’s snarls into what’s altogether a silly song.
Things end with a little more funkiness along with some “whooo’s” in “Screaming Geezer,” which I take is supposed to be a literal title.
The one song that feels like it doesn’t belong is a cover of Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine.” I don’t know what it is. This album is all over the place but sticks together well. But this song just feels like that doll arm stuck outside the toy box, and no matter how hard you try, you just can’t fit it in. You’d like to close the toy box, but you just say “screw it” and leave it partly open with the damn doll’s arm hanging out.
That’s how I feel about the cover of “Cocaine.”
Old Lady Drivers is all over the place and a bit of a crazy album, but it’s also right on the cusp of being great. Each of the songs have their own moments, some better than others. But unlike many grindcore, or even death metal albums, you don’t get that feeling of “haven’t I already heard that song on this album?”
It’s definitely recommended if you’re a listener who is easily bored. O.L.D. keep things interesting and doesn’t fall into any dull moments. This is one of the few albums that I found memorable after just three listens if you want to know how good it is.
O.L.D. definitely doesn’t sound old.