I Don’t Want to Smile Anymore: Barf Bag’s Vomit Dance EP is Gross Out Humor with a Brain

by Nick Hanover

Barf Bag Victim Dance Tape


I figure I probably speak for the bulk of the population when I say this, but I really hate throwing up. I’ve done my fair share of it, an ex even once gave a friend of mine a tour of “places on the east side where Nick has projectile vomited after being conned into taking Fireball shots” but it’s not the kind of memory I’m prone to revel in. So you would think a band called Barf Bag, who have made an entire EP of vomit punk, would be setting me off like a traumatic memory. Luckily(?), Barf Bag’s Victim Dance EP has more going on than bodily fluid expulsion jokes and sick themes, it’s a hybrid of Big Boys’ trash glam and James Chance herky-jerky rhythmic spasms, fittingly recorded “using exclusively ‘old junk'” by Slugbug’s Paul D. Millar, a budding technomage Steve Albini if ever there was one.

Combining members of avant-electro quirksters Pataphysics and noisy punk vets Polio Club, Barf Bag functions as an eerily smooth graft of both bands’ aesthetics, mining the wide open possibilities of Pataphysics vocal manipulation and glitchy eletronics with Polio Club’s cerebral punk instrumentation. Victim Dance has moments of more straightforward punk, like the less than thirty second-long inflammatory blast of “Puerto Rican Hand Job” and “Ball and Chain,” which sounds like a more frenzied Black Randy and the Metrosquad number. But for the most part, Barf Bag utilize more No Wave than punk influences.

The EP’s title track signifies this best, with its punk-funk bassline and Contortions’ guitar, but Patrick Healy’s voice has far more theatricality to it than anything James Chance ever did. Healy utilizes a mixture of electronic and organic voice modulation to sound like multiple men inhabiting one body, but where in Pataphysics that’s often done in service of some Roxy Music-like instrumentation and camp, in Barf Bag it becomes monstrous and obscene in the best possible sense. Healy hiccups and belches out lines, leading “Victim Dance” to become a musical seizure, a vocal body contorting in unexpected and discomforting ways, the music twisting in spastic coordination.

When the vocal effects are minimized on “Harmonicas,” that discomfort is arguably even more pronounced, as Healy is mixed low enough that it becomes difficult to tell where the human voices end and the machines begin. “Barfin’ All Over My Heart” has those vocal effects become their own instruments, serving as counter-melodies for a bizarro New Wave tale of vomit interrupting love. “Maybe you’re lying face down/In a public restroom stall/That doesn’t give you the right/To ignore my incoming phone call,” Healy declares, proceeding to call out “shitty bands” and “weak beers” for contributing to all these romantic interruptions, culminating in a sputtering chorus where Healy meekly proclaims “You’re barfin’ all over my heart, girl.” It’s a silly line but it’s delivered with the utmost sincerity.


That’s a large part of what makes Barf Bag more than a gross out gag from intellectual pranksters. This isn’t an ironic metaphor or strained faux-primitivism, but uncomfortable music made more, erm, palatable with a running body fluid theme, John Waters on a punk cassette, 120 Days of Sodom as a sock hop. In other words, come for the motion sickness, stick around for the quirky yet sincere art punk.

Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover