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Album Reviews






North London Blues Brothers Get Down And Dirty

The UK's A&R men are currently running around like headless chickens trying to find Britain's own rock 'n' roll saviors in the wake of The Strokes' and The Hives' success. For long-running blues-abusers Penthouse, this must merely confirm that the world is always as sick as they've insisted.

Infinitely filthier than their namesake top-shelf 'squirt mag', Penthouse blend The Jesus Lizard's psychotic subterranean rumble with The Fall's misanthropic worldview. And with vocalist Charlie Finke sounding like he's singing with a bouncer's foot on his throat, this follow-up to the quartet's 1998 'Gutter Erotica' debut, and 2000's 'My Idle Hands' album is scary enough to cause the fashionistas who have recently discovered 'authentic' rock 'n' roll to soil their low-slung Levi's. Good work.

KKK - Paul Brannigan




A bit of a premature writeup this, as Penthouse's upcoming third album is as yet untitled and awaits a final mix, but having been given a sneaky preview of rough mixes, a rave write up felt necessary.

It's probably reasonable to say that Penthouse are not for the faint hearted; known elsewhere as 'Fifty Tons of Black Terror' (legal complications, as I understand it, due to sharing the name of the girly mag!), the London four-piece delight in tremeloed wrecking-ball riffs, red-eyed abattoir-blues, and thundering diesel-oil rockabilly. Depending on your tastes, they're either a blistering rock'n'roll godsend, or an unasked-for migraine in Cuban heels.

Assuming, like me, you'll veer towards the former point of view, the upcoming record catches the band at their slavering best. 'New Black Nativity' lashes out in a hotwired Dwayne Eddy fashion, and the flaying of the senses continues over a dozen outbursts of liquor-soaked dementia; 'Dirty Dog' comes on like some depraved hound dry-humping the Damned's 'New Rose', while the bone-dry blues of 'Surly Crunt' or the superb 'War in Heaven' won't fail to win a place in the heart of anyone with half an ear for the Birthday Party. 'Yet there are more masochistic thrills on offer: 'Sexual Tourettes' gleefully jams a fork in the power socket and fries the neurones in the kind of discordant meltdown the 'house take delight in. That more genteel listeners might run in fear from such a mauling hardly seems the issue.

They're not everyone's idea of a good time, for sure, but in terms of tearing rock'n'roll a new asshole for the 21st century, Penthouse have got to be the prime contenders.

Hugh Gulland


My Idle Hands



In America, it would seem that this is coming far too quickly after the incredibly well done and well-received, “DEMETER” which, of course it is, in America anyway (it was out in Europe a year before).

America, the geographical location in which the band cannot even use their own name, PENTHOUSE.

America, the place where 50 TOBT toured smallish punk clubs and went virtually unheard on radio.

America the area where 50 TOBT should be bigger than Elvis and the BEATLES.

America is about to be destroyed.

Rockabilly-blues with a punk snarl and overdrive guitar unprocessed and ready for a new millennium of rock and roll rebellion. Ian Astbury needn’t try to reform his old band because somebody has finally concluded what the CULT started with their “ELECTRIC” album.

“Creepers Reef,” “Valley of the Sows,” “Giant Haystacks” and “Lil Brown Kisses” are the best songs that you or I will ever hear and completely erase all of the mistakes of the past two decades. This disc is unleashed January 18th which means that the Millennium bug is the least of our worries now. “Unstick your ass to the wall!”

5/5 - David Wilson




Raw BluesRock to the Nth Degree

Pick up this disc and go to "Giant Haystacks". Track 8. Don't worry, it's only 2 minutes and 12 seconds. It starts out loud, fast and aggressive. Bottom heavy with Charlie Finke's vocals sounding like a cross between Mark Smith and John Spencer. And then it channels Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Jon Spencer, Leadbelly, Sex Pistols, Robert Johnson, Sonic Youth and every aggressive edgy artist you can think of in the last 50 years. Yes, everyone! Then, keep in's only 2 minutes and 12 seconds

The fact that 50 Tons Of Black Terror (aka Penthouse for the rest of the world) can keep this gutteral aggressive bass rumbling consistent and engaging throughout 45 minutes over 13 tracks is a testament to their talent, energy, and willingness to let it ALL hang out EVERY minute they have a chance to. The fact that this makes good on the promises made on their first disc, Demeter, and there'll just be no stopping this band.

This will hit your speakers harder than a typhoon, hurricane, and tornado combined and it will leave you equally as breathless.

JF Parnell




I knew this kid in my neighborhood where I grew up that used to take frogs and nail them to boards. Then he’d watch them writhe in pain all around the board, bleeding out their frog juices. After they died, he would then dispose of the frog corpse, afterwards, admiring the artistic like blood spatters like they were some sort of a form of art.

For some reason this release reminds me of that kid. My Idle Hands, seems like the same sort of thing to me, it’s definitely not a pretty recording, but somehow, in a twisted kind of way, it too is an art form.

If there is not already a genre of music known as Inbred-Rock or Schizo-Metal, then there ought to be, just to better define Fifty Tons Of Black Terror’s musick.

It’s got the craziest vocals this side of Jesus Lizard, or better yet, similar in vein to Scratch Acid (Both groups featured the insane vocal ramblings of front-man David Yow). Or somewhat like the now infamous, Butthole Surfers vocalist, Gibby Haynes. In fact I had to check the liner notes to make sure that this wasn’t some sort of a David Yow or Gibby Haynes side-project.

It all makes you wonder, at times, if it is just an act, or if these people are really that damaged. I have a strange feeling that they really are.

Mason Dixon




Known as Penthouse outside of North America, Fifty Tons Of Black Terror provide a splendid dose of punk blues on their second long player. Murky and suggestive, My Idle Hands brings to mind The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Liar-period Jesus Lizard. Make no bones about it, listeners, this is one surging disc.

"Creepers Reef" gets things off solidly, wailing and throbbing like The Cramps on acid. The sonic blitz continues on brutal and begrimed numbers like "Valley Of The Sows," and "Little Brown Kisses." Primal rhythms mesh with scathing guitars on "Petit Sang (Little Blood)," as the barking psychosis of vocalist Charlie Finke simultaneously exhilarates and exhausts.

The discord and dat-chord stylings of Fifty Tons guitarist Jon Free are notable as he shreds his instrument strings on cuts like "The Pool At Blood Gully" and "Nudie Toon." Buzzing bass permeates the upbeat dirge-o-rama, "Detunabilly (Down Amongst The Nettles And Stones)," while "Man O' Fire" reveals Mark E. Smith's frightening and wonderful Fall as a point of reference.

Contentious but essential, anyone expecting a soothing exercise in relaxation will be s.o.l. with My Idle Hands. Frankly, that's what makes it such a joy. After all, parents will hate it, Crowded House-loving wives will loathe it, but fans of boiling, unrefined rock & roll are gonna love it.

John D. Luerssen




Round ’em up, hose ’em down, and smack that ass ’til it stings! That’s music industry lingo for Fifty Tons of Black Terror. Besides having the coolest band name around, Fifty Tons seems to have a bunch of other tricks up their collective sleeve. Throw Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Shellac and Jesus Lizard in a rodeo emceed by Tom Waits, and the ensuing chaos is a fairly accurate idea of their sound. My Idle Hands is 13 tracks of sloppy, sweaty blues-punk with a splash of gin-addled cowboy rock.

What is refreshing about Fifty Tons is that they have no qualms about giving up the rock. Unlike a lot of bands who either tip-toe around adding heavy guitars to their style of rock or just produce the crap out of it, Fifty Tons lets loose as though they crashed the studio and are trying to record the album before the cops show up. This is not a band that wants to do another take.

That’s not to imply that My Idle Hands is a noisy mess, at least not in the bad sense. In fact, the unsettling disorder is essentially the charm of the album, creating a chokehold of distortion that makes the guitars sound like uppity hostages getting a lesson in the consequences of insubordination. Also, the deft ear will pick up a surprising amount of melody amid the madness. It’s evident on “Valley of the Sows” and “Head of the Wake” where the bass grumbles and farts like an angry ogre, and also on “Detunabilly,” which sounds incredibly like digestion.

The album breaks up as it lurches along, losing its underlying sense of control on songs like “Beautiful Be the Indolent” and “The 49th Ton.” On these songs the flying shrapnel from their guitars starts to hurt a little, and detracts from the pleasantly dull throbbing feeling the other songs offer. Also, vocalist Charlie Finke comes off as a genuinely creepy guy throughout. Granted, his psycho twang spewing lines like “Bloody ruddy smoked and under done/ bloated my bikini shrinks in the sun” and “Its puerile tongue threshing wildly in a desert of boiling teeth,” may seem disconcerting to some, but did anyone question Jim Morrison when he started calling himself the Lizard King?

Fifty Tons of Black Terror is not for everyone. Their abrasive, hog-wrestling, bar-fighting sound will be a turn-off to many people. But being too reckless for the radio and too messy for MTV has a certain appeal these days.

7/10 - Matt Trupia




FTOBT lead vocalist, Charlie Finke must have a lot to be mad at the way he grows out the beat poetry that is My Idle Hands. This is a very original band in this trying time of unoriginality.

At times sounding like total zombies at a hoedown to awaken the rest of their buried friends. Other times they spit out the words and music in a random burst of machine gun fire in the form of dirty blues. Either way there is something very appealing to the whole thing.

I think rockabilly fans would even enjoy their style of grunge rock. I read one review that sums it up "FTOBT are the sound of Elvis shitting out lumps of hot lava before dying - Kerrang!".

The rest of the world (outside of North America) knows the band as Penthouse but due to issues with the adult magazine of the same name we shall be blessed by the band Fifty Tons Of Black Terror.

Try if you like - Jesus Lizard, Cop Shoot Cop




Sometimes you just need a good sonic skull-splitting. From the beginning of Fifty Tons of Black Terror's second release, My Idle Hands, brutal blasts of twisted distorto sub-rock pummel the listener into submission. If you took a used up mangled wire brush to the Chrome Cranks and soaked it in corn liquor and set it on fire, you might approximate the sound of this record. Fifty Tons, also known as Penthouse in Britain (apparently a nice fellow who runs a gentlemen's magazine in the U.S. took issue with the moniker --ed.) , combine blistering blues trash guitar with an unholy swamp moan and an unrelenting rhythm section. This alone will not make a good skull-spitting. But if you throw in crazy-maker noise blasts and shrill feedback bludgeons, as well as FTOBT's ability to switch from scuzzy garage noize to delta sludge sleaze to semi-gothic gloom at any given moment, you're left with no option but to submit to the Terror. Though they would fit right in with the Trance Syndicate bands or Chicago Noise post Noise, these guys seem a bit more malevolent and sinister. So if you want to subject yourself to a roundhouse of evil feedback mayhem and demented psychotic ranting, this would be the record you need.

If You Like: Nick Cave, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Fields of the Nephilim, Jonathan Fire*eater

Chris Storms




Gutter Erotica



This could rip the arse off you. An unpleasant prospect ordinarily, but coming from these alarming North London debutants it may be just what the doctor ordered. Generally, they purvey organised chaos, with noisemonger guitarist Jon Free and beatbombing drummer Tim Cedar wildly inspirational.

Road Rush and Harmonic Surf Spastic are the most buttock-threateningly unhinged tracks, while, in slower mode, the single, Voyeur's Blues, and A Deviant Soiree recall P.J. Harvey's encounters with the dirty depths of R&B - a thought supported by the odd snatch of lyric that frontman Charlie Finke pokes through the overwhelming racket: "I seen the way she does it to you/I wanna do it too", "You can do that again, only harder".

They will not pass unnoticed.


Phil Sutcliffe




So much of rock music pretends to be nasty while actually being rather nice. Not so Gutter Erotica by Penthouse, a huge, ugly slobbering great brute of an album that will have an instantly purgative effect of your sound-system.

Although loosely built on blues foundations, songs such as Road Rash, Harmonic Surf Spastic and Gus' Neck quickly establish a raging impetus that recalls the sonic extremism of Steve Albini's shortlived group Rapeman or, more recently, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

And if you want something slow, then La Grotte D'Amour, with it's distant echoes of Led Zepplin's Dazed And Confused, and A Deviant Soiree are songs that drag themselves across the speakers like some great desert beast slouching it's way towards some hideously perverted nirvana.

Gutter Erotica is about as hardcore as rock 'n' roll gets while still being recognisable as music. The amazing thing is that, although they had to go to America to get a recording contract, these guys come from North London. Strike one to those prissy, ironic, post-modern Brits.

David Sinclair



WHAT FETID swamp did these collapse-a-billy mugwumps ooze from, with their Elvoid sleaze and exquisite incoherence? An alligator-infested quagmire on the outer reaches of the Blue Bayou? A remote and thoroughly inbred corner of the Redneck Riviera, where 16 fingers and a third eye are the height of chic?

Not exactly. This particular iffy-quiffed quartet of blues-abusing, salacious satyrs actually hail from the diabolic delta of Little Venice, Camden. Yet their rowdy bastardisation of the howling, yowling 12-bar format is so gorgeously addled with cracker-yak craziness that they are left as quintessentially American as both mom's apple pie and the drive-by shooting.

'Gutter Erotica' dribbles with the kind of over-driven, wayward deviance normally associated with such white trash luminaries as The Jesus Lizard and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Graeme Flynn's staggering, bowel-quake bass grips Jon Free's libertine, Steve Albini-like guitar scrapes in a hammerlock half-nelson, as visceral gut-screamer Charlie Finke bellows, chokes and caterwauls himself into a lascivious lather. It's a mewling, squalling mess of belligerent blues that mashes those foolhardy or courageous enough to bear witness to its malicious majesty into abject submission.

From the rolling, bestial passion of 'Voyeur's Blues', through the garbling, collision rock splutter-splatter of 'Road Rash', to the languorous, bump-and-grind lust fest of the closing 'Face Down', Penthouse give no quarter to subtlety nor restraint. They're full-on, in-yer-groin and brutally seductive with a vengeance throughout. This is rock'n'roll how she should be played, like the, erm, brazen slut that she undoubtedly is. 'Gutter Erotica' catches a band in heat, burning with a contagious passion that will leave you breathless.

Penthouse: wanton in the gutter and licking at the scars.


Ian Fortnum




Gutter Erotica finds Penthouse embarking on a folk-excursion, all windswept mysticism and pastoral whimsy. Only joking.

As their previous four singles have irrefutably conveyed, Penthouse don't do "tunes", or anything that can be recognised as music by conventional reckoning. This, you suspect, is something they regard as, you know, "faggoty" or "wussy". This is a brutish, testosterone-fuelled, pile-driving slab of noise. They don't hold back for a second, sharing the same kind of sonic extremism as The Jesus Lizard and Big Black, although these boys hail from North London. All this might sound less than appetising, but then again if you're going to be noisy, you might as well be uncompromising about it. And they give their stateside cousins a run for their money.

A bit of an endurance test, but strangely compulsive.

Kathy Sweeney




This is what you have to believe; that down by the dockside, lurking at that brothel door, behind the tatooist's parlour and slumped in a pile of broken glass at the bar - that's where the good times are. That there's something cool about being beaten up by 13 angry sailors, losing all your cash on a game of dice, and seducing loose women in tight nylon.

That Penthouse, a gang of reprobates led by the insane gibber and feral-child bawl of Charlie Finke, live the life. Make it easy on yourself and believe, because 'Gutter Erotica' (how's that for a title with all it's cards on the table?) won't let up until you do.

With their David Yow eyes, Birthday Party hair, and Jerry Lee flash, they coerce their reference points into all sorts of disgusting poses. Try the fabulously filthy Voyeurs Blues, where Charlie yowls 'I can do that too/I've seen the way she sucks on you' as the guitar riff writhes on the floor at his feet and you writhe about laughing. See, disgusting. Sure, there are moments like undergoing open tune surgery without anaesthetic - if you've ever listened to someone retching in a next-door toilet, you've heard Beauty In The Beast - but hey, you have to take the rough with the smooooth.

Widows Chagrin struts through the city night like a greased-down, revved-up biker Travolta, Gus' Neck is a surf spasm that bashes it's head against the wall until it bleeds, while the staggering-till-it-falls-down Gin Waltz would as soon spit in your eye as lick your neck.

Yes, it's disgusting. But why stop at getting your hands dirty? Just go ahead and plunge right in. All the way.

RECOMMENDED - Victoria Segal



Yeah, this is the shit, love it love it love it. Didn't really expect them to be this good, don't know why. Kind of like a really fucked-up Jesus Lizard abusing the Hell out of Led Zepplin, pissing on the Blues Explosion in a most gloriously raw, mean, fucked-up way - a beautiful album - kind of album you can play and play and play to death, kind of album you'd take on a long long long road trip - yep, this is the shit, it was right there all the time... I love music when it's this good!

Penthouse - a band that means it.

This 'Organ' thing is really good fun to do now I'm only telling you about the really good shit, and not just filling it up with the average!

Sean Worral or maybe Marina Anthony


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