Not enough sex organs and too many socks. Such are the issues that fuel the peculiar poetry of John S. Hall, a New York nebbish whose verse has penetrated further into the rock audience than most because it's attached to the engine of a real rock band, King Missile.
At the Whisky on Thursday, the band's three instrumentalists played sub-Stones garage-rock while the dumpy Hall hunched over and stomped around, looking like a kid Walter Matthau auditioning for the Beastie Boys.
He occasionally wandered to the back of the room to chat with fans while the musicians soloed, and he wielded a pickax while yelling, "She split my head open with a pickax, and I loved every minute of it."
Obsessive rants ("Look at all my socks . . . can you imagine having so many socks?") alternated with intricate metaphysical games and creepy items like "These People," which voiced the thoughts of a derelict contemplating the murder of a couple that has taken him in.
Hall and company rushed through last year's hit "Detachable Penis" as if trying to escape its novelty-tinged grasp. But the crowd actually gave a warmer welcome to "Jesus Was Way Cool," which introduced the Hall sensibility to the underground rock audience in 1990. Here Hall was an East Village, punk-generation version of beat-era hipster monologuist Lord Buckley.
A self-deprecating charm won the day for Hall and King Missile. As for the straight pop songs that they're attempting to integrate, here's a tip: Detach and discard.