There are two basic varieties of "alternative" country. There's the painfully sincere stuff, which is generally a twangier offshoot of Americana rock. This is the stuff the mainstream critics go for. Then, on the other hand, there are the punk-descended country bands, whose reverence for classic country stylings is always flavored with a subtle hint of piss-take. These folks are typically crack musicians whose lyrical tastes run to blue-collar moral dilemmas and monochromatic theological disputes. And while bands of this variety may eventually become a little one-dimensional, they are usually a lot of fun to listen to.
Slim Cessna's Auto Club falls firmly into the second category. But you knew that, didn't you? Would Alternative Tentacles sign anything that wasn't a little off the beaten path? Of course not. Equal parts traveling medicine show and creepily sexual revival meeting, Always Say Please and Thank You is the country music of drunken brawls, carnival freakshows and shotgun weddings -- as seen through the camera lens of David Lynch. Whether you're swaying along to the gospel-tinged goodness of "Water into Wine", downing a shot of whiskey to the mournful "Jesus Christ" or shuddering your way through the country-goth of "Cheyenne", you're always aware that the proceedings could head in a much darker direction at the drop of a ten-gallon hat.
Because they draw from several decades worth of music history, artists like Slim can enjoy a self-awareness far beyond that of all but the most venerable punk rockers. When Slim attempts to write his "Last Song About Satan", blaming the devil for all of his addictions and antisocial behavior, he's as aware of the hypocrisy as we are. Cessna's world isn't a place where hard-working men know when to quit drinking, good women remain faithful and people take personal responsibility for their actions. It's the same world it ever was, and the character flaws that resulted in countless juke-box dramas way-back-when are still alive and kicking today.
If that seems a little too heavy for you, don't worry. It's easy to get lost in the bodacious twang of Always Say Please and Thank You and still keep Other People's Problems at arm's length. Slim and his boys are top-flight musicians, and they're out to give you a good hard bang for your music-buying buck. Have a good swig of whiskey, praise the Lord and turn up the stereo.