Rockabilly is best described as 50s rock n’roll fused with classic country western (think more Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly…not Garth Brooks). The bands often contain a snappin stand up bass and twangy electric guitars. Leatherjacket wearing, switchblade packing greaser gangs used to blast these tunes from their radios while riding around in their Cadillac El Dorados.
Somewhere along the way the genre of rockabilly started hanging out with the genre of punk. They had a lot in common, what with them each being the musical rebellion of their time. After a few candlelit dinners the pair got romantic, they got a place together and shopped for silverware sets and curtains on the weekends. Things got hotter and heavier and as the result of abundant heavy petting and musical metaphorical intercourse, Rockabilly and Punk had a child together. This child went by the name of “psychobilly”, and for some odd reason she was really into B-Horror movies.
Why psychobilly and horror movie imagery are so closely related is a mystery to me. It is fitting though, as a cow-punky 50s psychobilly rocker about why the government sucks, skateboarding, why trendy people suck, beer, why eating meat sucks, drugs, why parents suck, why love sucks, food or rioting wouldn’t sound too great. Don’t get me wrong, these are all great lyrical themes but they come out much cooler when the characters in the song are zombies, vampires or any other sinister monster that’s eating children in the woods late at night. It is campy, it’s not exactly thought provoking or relevant to current issues, but it’s damn cool.
New Mexico’s 12 Step Rebels are one of the better American psychobilly bands out there. It’s odd, as it’s such an Americana rooted kind of music, that European bands like Mad Sin, Nekromantix and The Horrorpops have a better handle on it. In the states, Tiger Army pretty much dominate the scene with their poetic stylings and more melodic sound. One of the key players in Tiger Army’s line up was ex-bassist Geoff Kresge. This guy also shredded with AFI (‘92-’97), Blanks 77 and currently The Horrorpops. He’s got an ear for good music, as he’s also produced bands such as Graveyard Shift and 12 Step Rebels.
“Go Go Graveyard Rockin” is the bands second release.
The record kicks off with Hunt of the Unnamed
. This song has a galloping sound to it, with more subtle lead guitar. Several few-second breakdowns are strewn throughout to breakup the song. One of the first things people notice about 12SRs are the high pitched, unconstrained vocals. A lot of psycho’b bands have an echo effect they use for the singing but that device is no where to be found here. Instead, there’s an onslaught of Jakob Insane’s high energy voice and the background vocals which complete a busy an intense sound. Before the last chorus, we’re treated to a pretty good and unexpected solo, unique in it’s vintage tone that sounds downright foreign in a time of Dragonforce and Avenged Sevenfold. Rebel Rock
continues with the fast and rockin rockabilly trademark. It’s got more of a melodic hook, but it’s still one of the darker sounding straightforward rock songs on here. It is equivalent to a more standard punk bands two minute long two-chord song that varies little between each artist. This singing, however, sounds pretty badass without sounding hoarse or obnoxious. The thicker guitar just completes its hard edge theme.
is where the album picks up a little. A fan favorite, it’s got a lot of bite. This is one of many tracks that are certain to get stuck in your head and stay with you for a while. There’s some tight soloing at the end of the song which sounds like a build up to a fierce final chorus. Instead, theirs spoken word where the singer breathlessly relays what sounds like a scared hero in a horror movie, after which that fierce final chorus does eventually end it.
Sometimes They Roam
has the more growly singing, that departs from the higher pitched range. It’s perfect for the fearful nature of the song. What sets 12SRs apart from other bands of their kind is their perspective. Where horror punk legends like Nekromantix, The Misfits, or Demented Are Go sing from the point of view of the monster…they’re the evil ones, stalking the girl, the omniscient sinister force, the psychopathic serial killer, the beast with a ravenous hunger for flesh or the demon who knows nothing but to kill and torture; 12 Step Rebels songs are for the most part from the angle of the victim. They are the voice of humanity, fighting against the supernatural entities that are after them. Sometimes They Roam
conveys this feeling of fear well, with an underlying message of hopelessness and being afraid of not making it through a hard night.
Ballad of Frankenstein’s Monster
is about you guessed it, how hard it is to be Frankenstein. It’s a slow song, but with a steady drum beat. The vocals aren’t the best hear, as they sound a little shrill and don’t mesh with the melody well. It is no doubt a sad sounding song though, giving such an aged story new feeling. Obviously, it’s not to be taken completely literally but if you didn’t pay attention to the lyrics it does actually sound like a serious tune. Graveyard Rockin
brings the upbeat happy go lucky speed back with barely understandable lyrics, but the fast jibberish sounds good. Theirs some guitar shredding in the outro that could be right from a surf song, but nonetheless doesn’t sound too out of place.
The Banshee’s Wail
is one of the best, for it’s simple blend of a heavily moving harmony and an unorthodox song structure. It starts with undistorted, lone ominous guitar with faint organ in the background that gets louder and eventually erupts into obscene speed, that lets up with slow tempo and excellent singing. The song continually changes time and mood from whispering and down tempo instruments to rapid fire instruments with wailing singing, palm mutes and that one completely infectious chorus that brings everything together.
The following song, 2000 Years
is the reason I wrote this review. It’s one of those songs you hear that makes you not want to listen to it too much because it’s so good and you don’t want to get sick of it. But no matter how many times I do allow myself to hit play it doesn’t get old. Basically it tells the tale of: boy meets girl, boy tragically becomes werewolf, girl is murdered, boy lives cursed life of immortality without his only true love, boy is killed and finally reunites with the one he lost. It sounds like the plot of a shi'tty made for tv teen horror flick. But this song gives me chills and just seems to surpass normal song stature existing on another plain of existence. The sense of despair it conveys is amazing.
The Hair Song
is pretty much the stab at humor a lot of artists take to lighten the mood. It sounds pretty mundane next to the nut busting piece of musical excellence it follows, but it’s pretty catchy. The chorus is pretty much just “Don’t f’uck with my hair”.
The borderline ska guitars give it a nice poppy sound. Creatures of the Night
was the song that got me into 12 Step Rebel’s for it’s incredibly catchy chorus. The version on this album is actually not as good as the one on their previous compilation. The newer adaptation feels rushed and that previously existing creeped out feeling that was present in the original is made to sound like a caffeine addicts panicky nightmare in the updated revision. Nonetheless, it’s not a bad song.
, however is one badass song. Similar to Skinwalkers, with its growly more angry croon. It has some of the best lyrics for one of those “feel good about being pissed off, on your way to kick someone’s ass” songs. The rapid starting and stopping of the instruments followed by the most intense six string tapping laden solo yet, doesn’t do anything to mellow out the mood. The conclusion has spoken lyrics (which just sound like poetry), accompanied by calmer guitar and an unraveling rhythm section.
Curse of the Pentagram
starts with wickedly dire guitar and some creepy sounds. Theirs another version of this song that has the addition of an extremely effective audio sample from an old horror movie in the beginning to set the tone. This album version is a little less without it, but without the introduction it’s still a catchy and dark tune. The drums really stand out in the punchy breakdown that slows down yet grows heavier.
That’s the last track, but whats this? Silence following the last song. Then…laughing and it appears we have a secret track (the drunken screw-around acoustic kind). It’s called “Happy Songs” and pretty much consists of “Happy songs they make me feel good, Sad songs they make me sad.” It’s got that inside joke tone to it, which is why it’s a secret song.
Creatures of the Night
It’s a must have in the collection of anyone who enjoys 50s rock n’roll, horror movies, classic country western, speedy punk or all of those things combined. The material on Go Go Graveyard Rockin ranges from brave and sinister fight ballads to emotional heart warmers to be boppin’ fifties era dance songs.