It feels right to review this re-released EP only after we have already discussed Nobody Said it Was Easy and Gettin’ Pretty Good at Barely Gettin’ By. Until I met T-Rev at the old Record Store, I didn’t even know such an EP existed. But he had it; an original copy purchased somewhere in the States before we met. He taped it for me (same songs both sides) and that was the first I heard of the Horsemen’s 1990 debut EP. I hunted high and low for another CD copy, but failed until this 2009 reissue. Originally and simply titled The Four Horsemen, the reissued EP sports the new title Welfare Boogie, and five bonus tracks.
According to the liner notes, the band didn’t mind if they sounded a bit like AC/DC since “nobody is doing AC/DC anymore, not even AC/DC”. The EP has the same raw and rough vibe of Powerage-era Bon Scott, but with a guy who can also scream like Brian Johnson. “Welfare Boogie” itself works as an example. It’s a basic riff, a rawk vibe, a shout-along chorus and a charismatic shrieker (Frank C. Starr). This track and the laid-back rock and roll “Shelly” were both written solely by drummer Ken “Dimwit” Montgomery. Dave Lizmi’s guitar solo is equal parts Angus Young and Ace Frehley. The date might say 1990, but it sounds more like 1978. “High School Rock N’ Roller” was written by founding member, Haggis (aka Kid Chaos aka Stephen Harris), who had finished a world tour with the Cult. Once again, it’s easy to point at early AC/DC as the prime influence. The one track that sounds more like punk rock (Dimwit was from D.O.A.) than AC/DC is “Hard Lovin’ Man”. Starr might not have written it, but it’s clearly about him. I have heard him reference his tattooed weiner before in a RIP Magazine interview. (“It has eyes!” he seemed to beam with pride.) The lyrics:
“I got heart of stone,
And a hand of steel,
Got a tattooed pecker,
And a Batmobile.”
“I”m a hard lovin’ man,” he boasts, before inviting “come here baby and see how hard I am.” All this to the rock and roll blitzkrieg of a song so fast that it doesn’t even break the 2 1/2 minute mark. The four tracks combined make for a grand little EP, not even 13 minutes long! In and out, mission accomplished. Thankfully the bonus tracks extend the experience for those wanting a little bit more action.
A cassette demo of “Rockin’ is Ma Business” demonstrates a work in progress as the band fiddled with the arrangement. Comparing the final track to the demo, it sounds like it ingested a steady diet of coffee and gin before cranking it up to 11. Always interesting to hear these early works in progress. The bones are there but the meat is only being added. “The Needle” is an unreleased song, a menacing night prowler with teeth flashing in the gloom.
“Born to Boogie” transformed completely between this demo and a later demo included on Nobody Said it Was Easy. According to the liner notes here, this song eventually mutated again into “Can’t Stop Rockin'” from the album. This track however is just a good time boogie with a bouncy riff lifted from “New York Groove” by Ace Frehley. Then there is “Ain’t Telling Me”, a purely AC/DC stomp with a hint of Guns N’ Roses on top like a cherry. Finally, a fun track called “Bring On the Girls” goes down like a round of tequila. You can hear that the chords here later became “Moonshine” on the LP. Even the bass line is identical, but this is a more party-hearty version of a fondly remembered deep cut.
This collection of songs was never meant to be more than a warm-up. The main course was always intended to be the LP. When a band is as good as The Four Horsemen were, the EP still impresses more than a thousand other bands’ proper albums.