20,000 Leagues Under the Scene Tour
East Bay Express 7/18/00
Off-key singing, grating fiddle, incessant banjo strumming and lumbering rhythms make for a night of alt.country at its most annoying as Hank Plank and the 2x4s park in the East Bay for a couple of hours.
Rocket to Venus
Willamette Week, 8/23/00
Local brainy barndancers dump another batch of smart trad-ish country about fuckin’, drinkin’ and thinkin’ too much. These fellas know what they’re doing when it comes to country (thankfully, “alt” elements are tastefully muted), and it’s hard not to like lyrics such as “looks like my dick’s been cheatin’ on my heart again…while under the influence of strong drinks and subtle hints, wasted days turn into wicked nights.” Still, this five-song short-player sounds like a fairly hasty recording. Hank and company would do well to work these over a little.
Rocket to Venus
The Rocket No. 331, August 9 – 23, 2000
Self-described as rockers who don’t rock, Hank Plank & the 2x4s are definitely a pack of hard-drinking cards. Founding members Yokoyama and Herzog (the only Planker who’s never sported a mullet) moved to Portland from Boston in 1997, soon adding Brooks, Niebrzydowski and quiet, thoughtful Lybarger (who drinks and then gets naked).
Yokoyama’s soft, eloquent patter is a puzzling picture considering the cut of his hair. He hands me his card: “4M — Mark, Male Mullet Model. Professional mullet modeling for all occasions, pubic and private.” “I’d like to combine the mullet of the ’80s with the vibrant synthetic hair color of the ’90s,” he says. Yokoyama’s conversational repertoire is by no means limited to topics of the scalp though — this guy is here to tell you about his penis, and he knows you care.
Niebrzydowski hadn’t played banjo before when he first did three songs in Hank’s set one evening. An estimable solo guitarist of 12 years who gives lessons for a living, he’s an odd choice for this band. Of his skewed, wafting banjo style, he says it’s, “[how] Syd Barrett would play banjo if you handed him one.”
Their third self-released album, Rocket to Venus, is a boot-stomping testament to their boozy bravado. The palpably emotive heartbreak of “Lost My Beer” features a protagonist opening beers and misplacing them while he searches for his weed. Yokoyama’s ode to erectile dysfunction, “One Mile an Hour,” rivals Ween in its rude whimsy. “The last time I had a tune-up it was a nocturnal emission/That’s about as fast as I can go,” he sings.
Somewhere between three and eight beers is the Plankian ideal for optimum live performance. When Yokoyama is rude to their adoring public, the band proffers cards that read, “Mark, you’re being an asshole.” By way of apology they invite everyone back to their house for beers.
Venus Hair Trap
Willamette Week 3/1/00
Jittery country rave-ups about getting wasted, getting arrested and wrecking things. What, you need to know more?
Venus Hair Trap
Willamette Week January 2000
There ain’t no Hank or Plank, and there sure as heck ain’t no 2×4’s in this group, but isn’t that the way it always goes? On this Portland band’s second album, the musical delivery is anything but wooden. Though the disc was recorded in a local driveway, the “aw shucks, where’s my dawg” attitude and accent lend the tunes a hillbilly-bumpkin affection. Throughout the 11 songs, fast-paced fiddle and banjo work turns the album into a rollicking hootenanny–you can practically feel the foot-stomping and head-bobbing going on behind the mics. A strong Dylan influence runs through the vocals, and the all-original songs stay true to traditional American folk and country music styles.
Venus Hair Trap
In Music We Trust
Drunken, wild, hootenanny bluegrass, Hank Plank & the 2x4s make you want to dance, drink, and party on through the wee hours of the morning on their debut full-length, Venus Hair Trap.
“I’m the Only Thing My Baby Left Behind” tackles lost love with some tongue-in-cheek humor and lots of booze-stained bluegrass, while “I Never” cruises on down the open highway with the windows down, the radio blasting, and solid bluegrass-rock shaking the car’s frame. “Float Away” finds the band settling down a bit to the tune of a simmering, modest jamboree piece. And “Kentucky” opens up like the night sky; sparkling and warm, glowing down on you like the moon, and plenty lively and entertaining.
If you’re looking for some good party music that has a thundering rhythm section, drunken vocals that make you want to drink, and a good ol’ time feel to it, than this is your stuff. They hit party right on the head, while also serving up a bit of substance, too.
Venus Hair Trap
Hot damn, these rural white-trash ruffians proudly produce a rowdy, rip-snortin’, horndog hootenanny of full-fledged, grade-A, countrified aural joviality! It’s backwoods, banjo-fuelled, “Deliverance”-style sonic sinfulness that’ll make the devil feverishly dance a jig in the shadowy pale moonlight with a hedonistic honky-tonk mama. During a couple of the dandy delightful ditties, a frenetically out-of-control fiddle shreds the inner sanctums of my ears with its wildly swirling banshee-wail of screeching insanity. Sure as shit, this is some sourmash-stewin’, moonshine-brewin’ mountain music that’ll quiver your liver, twist your titties in a knot, and knock your dick in the dirt somethin’ fierce! So hey now, Junior, just do this for ol’ Rog right this very minute: grab your partner and swing her around, tap your toes, then go to town, and when you get to town, lay your money down (for the saucy swaggerin’ sounds of Hank Plank and his 2×4 compadres, of course!). Yeeeee-fuckin’-haw, this is damn near as invigoratin’ as passionate, sweat-drenched sex with a farm-bred girl in a tub full of Jim Beam and maple syrup!
Ridin’ Shotgun on the Bandwagon
The Rocket 5/26/99
…Portland corn-squeezers Hank Plank & the 2×4’s have found a different path: an all-pickin’, all-yellin’,
hell-for-leather jamboree produced with all the painstaking restraint of the boozed-up shitkickers that started the damn thing.