The Taxpayers are one of the most unique bands to come out in the past ten years, and “God, Forgive These Bastards” may be one of the most objectively perfect albums ever. Period. A mash-up of jazz, American folk and the undying presence of hardcore punk, “God Forgive These Bastards” shows the experimentation of elements that just don’t seem to fit. Yet, it just works so well.
Sold coupled with a book written by lead singer, guitarist Rob Taxpayer, the two chronicle the life of Henry Turner, a recently deceased 1970s Georgia Tech pitcher, who threw his arm out before getting his big break and slowly fell into a pit of homelessness, substance-abuse and insanity. This sort of story is the only kind that could match the subtle sense of despair found throughout the album. On “Hungry Dog in the Streets,” a mellow, jazzy acoustic ballad, the pain of Turner’s struggle shines through in Taxpayer’s endlessly dark lyrics, crooning “my heart is a cancer, radiation wouldn’t help a thing.” Taking a twist on a love song that could only come from the broken down and beaten, “I Love You Like an Alcoholic” plays out as a soft duet between accordion player Danielle Steal and Taxpayer, who sing a harmony of “I need you like I need a gaping head wound.”
Despite the heartfelt, soft vibes found on a few tracks, it can’t be shaken that this is an endlessly dark album. The jazz presence found across the album serves a near bizarre, dark backdrop to the horror stories playing out. On “The Businessman,” a soft, light-hearted acoustic, horn and harmonica jam serves as a backdrop to Taxpayer’s distorted voice telling a story of Turner biting a man’s ear off, while the music transforms into cacophonic blasts accompanying screams of “I thought he was the devil!”
“Goddamn These Hands of Mine,” a reference to Turner’s crippled hands that came as a result of a bad cut on a broken beer bottle, plays as a blasting punk and dark jazz fusion that joins Steal and Taxpayer yet again, this time harmonizing in distorted screams of “Goddamn this city, goddamn these people, goddamn this weather, goddamn these broken down hands of mine,” making a break for a strangely captivating horn solo.
“God, Forgive These Bastards” is not like anything you’ve ever heard. It’s dark, it’s twisted, it’s depressing and at times it hits you dead in the gut. And it’s just absolutely beautiful. Its jazz sections meld seamlessly with the bits of hardcore punk, which blend just as well with portions of folk. There is something for everyone, and each something tells the same story, one that is as relatable as it is heart-wrenching.