Special Ed and the Shortbus
Ground Beef Patrol
1.5 Stars (out of 5)
Political correctness obviously is of no concern to Special Ed and the Shortbus. Insensitivity notwithstanding, the cleverness of the Richmond, Virginia ensemble’s moniker is counteracted by childish track titles like “Trouser Gravy,” “Underpants Rag,” and “Haecceity of Scrotus.” Unfortunately, immature antics ensue accordingly.
That’s too bad, because Ground Beef Patrol initially exhibits skilled musicianship in its helter-skelter amalgamation of bluegrass, eastern European music, jug band, old-time, punk, ragtime, and Vaudeville. Special Ed Brogan (lead guitar), Ben Belcher (banjo, mandolin, bass), Josh Bearman (mandolin, bass, kazoo, clawhammer banjo), Aaron Lewis (fiddle), and Jake Sellers (percussion, battery) possess a solid foundation in traditional styles, and the band won the Southeastern Independent Music World Series in 2007.
Yet Ground Beef Patrol deteriorates in conjunction with the locker-room humor and inane improvisations of “Bloodworm Sausage,” “Drag Rag,” and “Don’t Worry ‘Bout the Poor.” The result resembles a soundtrack (sans the audience noise, “dolphin impersonations,” and “rhythmic armpit-fart solos”) for the band’s live shows, where broken strings and broken bottles quantify (and apparently qualify) the performance.
If only Special Ed and the Shortbus could elevate its humor to even a lowbrow level. These guys definitely know what they’re doing; however, they also should know better than to do it.
by Tim Walsh