Finally, a rock band for the one percent! The Upper Crust are an AC/DC-loving band from Boston who perform their swaggering cock-rock (or “rocque and roll,” as they like to call it) dressed in the powdered wigs, buckled shoes and ruffled finery of 18th century French aristocrats. They stay rigorously in character throughout, sneering at the “foul congregation” of their plebeian fans and raising their pinkie fingers between songs in a foppish variation of the classic devil horns gesture. It’s the Ancien Régime by way of Aerosmith, Bon Scott in breeches. And like a lot of our favorite super-gimmicky bands, it’s a great example of a silly, one-note idea run so far into the ground it’s struck a gusher of some sticky black substance resembling genius.
The main madman behind The Upper Crust is Nat Freedberg, aka Lord Bendover, who’s been toiling away in various semi-obscure (and completely obscure) Boston bands since the ’80s. (This article gives some good background.) He started The Upper Crust in 1995 with a lineup that’s undergone surprisingly few changes since: A third guitarist, Lord Rockingham, dropped out fairly early, and they swapped out bassists at some point, but second singer/guitarist the Duc D’Istortion (“a student of the manly art of fisticuffs,” according to his official bio) and drummer Jackie Kickassis (an “effervescent personage” with a fondness for “the verses of the ancient homosexual poets”) have been with the group since day one. Most non-joke bands would kill for that kind of continuity.
The Upper Crust have released three original studio LPs, a live album, and a “greatest hits” collection, Cream of the Crust. The track titles alone are worth the price of admission: “Once More Into the Breeches,” “We’re Finished With Finishing School,” “Come Hither Fair Youth,” a live DVD called Horse & Buggery. As far as we can tell, they haven’t done much since releasing their last album, Revenge for Imagined Slights, in 2009. The only event listed on their official website (by their faithful manservant, Bumbles) is a benefit concert that happened back in April. “It is not sheer greed that drives them as usual,” Bumbles writes, in a commoner’s fumbling attempt to mimic the arch wit of his lordships. Oh, I bet you tasted the lash for that impertinent remark, Bumbles!
We would be remiss not to include a huzzah here for Rico Gagliano, co-host of public radio show/podcast The Dinner Party, who introduced us to The Upper Crust when I was a guest on his show back in February. (What do you mean you missed it? For shame. Lucky for you there’s an Internet now for archiving such things.)
Here’s the fuzzy but still pretty awesome video for one of The Upper Crust’s signature tunes, “Let the Eat Rock,” originally released circa 1995. Keep an eye out for the coal-fired guitar amp. These dudes were steam punks before steam punk even existed.