The band's career being a bemusing series of albums and performances, there perhaps isn't one true and absolute starting point to begin with the Alice Donut experience, but Mule is as good a candidate as any. It doesn't hurt that at this point the group had a variety of albums under its belt, not to mention what turned out to be one of its most well-known (on an indie level) songs to showcase, the extremely rude, wrong, and wonderful "Big Ass." Overall, Mule is another showcase for Antona's near-screeched perversions and hilarities, the band's way around psychedelic chime and hard rock craziness in equal measure, and the recurring belief that one can be funny, entertaining, and dramatic all at once. Certainly it's a wonder more people didn't try to track the band down and have the members killed given "Mother of Christ," which envisions the Immaculate Conception and its consequences in ways both Freud and Larry Flynt would approve of. Other songs deal with everything from a miserable, grinding marriage/abuse hell ("Mrs. Hayes") to the joys of "Roadkill" and a celebration of "Burlesque" involving everything from singing opera to public bondage and sex on Times Square. The ear the performers have for each other's strengths and abilities is pretty darn good — a listener gets the sense that the songs were hashed out in rehearsal plenty of times and then turned into crazed tempo-shifting mini-epics. Which perhaps they weren't, but hey, one can dream. With sounds like straightforward twangy epic rock warmth sliding into slashing jams on "Roaches in the Sink" mixing with the multi-part epic of "Bottom of the Chain," it all turns out right. Besides, why resist an album featuring a twisted rip on "My Boyfriend's Back," along with a song with intentionally cruddy trombone and other random sounds leading into a heavy metal rant called "My Severed Head"?