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Friday, August 15, 2008

Woken by Whale

posted by on August 15 at 15:47 PM

I often fall asleep to music. Usually I play an instrumental ambient CD or I put on KEXP and drift off.

This morning at 6:55 I awoke with a start to a song I haven’t heard in ages—Swedish band Whale’s “Hobo Humpin Slobo Babe.” Some sad soul requested the fluke 1993 hit and John Richards delivered. Back-announcing the set, he accurately called “Hobo” “a mess.”

Damn, did I have flashbacks when “Hobo” started assaulting my slumbering mind. I gradually realized that 1) this song sounded really fresh after years of not even thinking about it, and 2) some songs (mainly those of the novelty bent) should only be heard every few years or so, because even after only a few consecutive listens they begin to pall.

When “Hobo” came out in ’93, it was a genuine one-off, a relentlessly throbbing bristle of oral-explosive pop whose only predecessors may have been Haysi Fantayzee or Bow Wow Wow. I can’t think of another similar song that followed in its wake. One wonders what sort of back-room negotiations went down to leverage “Hobo” into radio, club, and MTV ubiquity. Could it have been the lollipop-sucking, panty-flashing, casual beefcake-flaunting video? Perhaps.

The song consists of odd elements: Cia Berg’s mewling Nordic-female vocals are as sickening as they are sexy while a menacing bass line that could’ve been lifted from a sinisterly heavy psych-rock group woob woobs on one chord with a maddening compulsion. Meanwhile, the guitar shoots geysers of tangled chords more suitable for a release on PSF than Virgin.

But what drills the track into your noggin like an advert for the joys of idful living are the massed male voices on the chorus, which may be the most volcanic ever to penetrate the charts. The lyrics are basically all nonsense, but they’re sung with a terrifying intensity.

Seriously, this is orgiastic, fuck-shit-up stuff. How did mid-’90s culture guardians let it through the mainstream portal where it could taint our precious children? The mass popularity of “Hobo Humpin Slobo Babe” remains one of music’s great enigmas.

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Heh, ironically.. John actually plays that song at least once a month. Is that same "sad soul" requesting this song over and over again? :)

Don't forget 900 Ft. Jesus too. uggh.

Posted by sigh. | August 15, 2008 4:03 PM

heheh. i've always wanted to rhyme on this instrumental. does it exist? i actually fucking love this song, and i've always wanted to read somebody's thoughts on one of the weirdest hit singles of the 90's. good on you sir.

fuck mc 900 ft jesus tho, FOR REAL

Posted by lar | August 15, 2008 4:10 PM

Dave, might I suggest Christopher Cross' "Sailing" for late night sleepy time tunage. You might cry though, like me.

Posted by trent moorman | August 15, 2008 4:11 PM

Lar: You'd really have to bellow to be heard over that track. Btw, I still like MC 900 Ft Jesus—well, his production anyway...

Trent: A pox on you for making me think of "Sailing."

Posted by segal | August 15, 2008 4:30 PM

@2: inexplicably, i have the 12" and there is no instrumental.

bonus: the lone single from their shit sandwich follow up album has a good, though-paint-by-the-numbers cut la roc remix and a µ-ziq remix that sounds like every other µ-ziq remix from the period (re: µ-ziq).

Posted by cosby | August 15, 2008 4:59 PM

I want to write a science fiction novel in which Haysi Fantayzee become as popular as the Beatles.


Here's to remixed cabaret left-wing hip-hop hobo rock fashion forever!

Posted by Chris Estey | August 16, 2008 7:12 PM

to die for!

Posted by Waffle | August 17, 2008 2:21 AM

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