Why is Halloween the one holiday with which people seem to get away with celebrating all year `round? Christmas used to be relegated to December, yet now retail decorations and music seem to pervade ever further backwards up the calendar, creeping ever closer to summer, but that doesn’t really count. You don’t see people making artistic careers out of Christmas. In fact, releasing a yule-themed album outside of winter is usually a death-knell for sales. Thanksgiving has never had any of these problems; though it would be funny to see people dress up in pilgrim outfits with the big shiny buckles any other time but November. The same goes for almost any other holiday. What holiday would you choose to embody 24/7 if given the choice? Most people actually would answer Halloween, I suppose, if only because the traditions and concepts surrounding the pagan holiday are somewhat subversive and, well, cool.
Danny Elfman, Tim Burton, the Cramps, Elvira and the entire goth movement have made Halloween a year long party and following in their collective footsteps are the Horrors, a new Southend, England punk band that put the `in’ in Samhain. This fivesome looks the part as one resembles a possessed Johnny Ramone, one looks like a zombified Julian Casablancas and one is the spitting image of Robert Smith, no extra spookiness need be added. They also have the monikers to match including guitarist Joshua Von Grimm, organist Spider Webb and my favorite, drummer Coffin Joe. Aside from the look and the handles, they also have the sounds. Inspired by the likes of Joe Meek and Screaming `Lord’ Sutch, the Horrors inject modern punk vitriol into the mix, and pull it off so well, you’ll know it by the blood trickling down your eardrums.
The band’s self-titled EP debut clocks in at just less than fifteen minutes, which is also apparently how long most of their early shows had been. Now that they have a full-length album arriving in 2007, that might change, but the fiery urgency of their brand of punk rock will not. “Death at the Chapel” is the perfect introduction for this band, beginning with a powerfully fuzzy guitar riff, then launching into a scream and a Munsters-style Vox Continental organ. A lot of ’60sbands used the same type of organ including ? and the Mysterians as well as the Doors, but I always end up thinking of Fred Gwynne rather than Ray Manzarek, and I’m guessing so too do the Horrors. A cover of the Syndicats’ “Crawdaddy Simone” follows, truly sounding how it should, a punk version of a sixties’ classic. Sounds of destruction, sirens and lead singer Faris Badwan’s yelps all go to lend this song the extra energy it needs.
Then comes the band’s big hit, “Sheena is a Parasite.” Rather than sounding like the previous two songs, this track seems like a mash up between the Prodigy’s “Firestarter” and Blur’s “Parklife,” albeit sung by a bunch of strung-out teens in a slasher pic. One of the band’s biggest coups was snagging semi-retired director Chris Cunningham to direct the video that features Morvern Callar herself, Academy Award nominee Samantha Morton. Another cover follows in Screaming ‘Lord’ Sutch’s “Jack the Ripper,” finding Badwan resembling Nick Cave at his Birthday Party spookiest. Final track “Excellent Choice” is another highlight, featuring spoken lyrics to rockabilly riffs fresh from the grave.
All in all, it would be fairly easy to dismiss the Horrors as a campy `theme’ band that could be relegated to Halloween parties, but this band transcends that simple tag merely by playing good old-fashioned punk to its core. Watch for the Horrors to do the `mortal coil shuffle’ toward a record store and venue near you, you won’t be disappointed.
Screaming ‘Lord’ Sutch – Hands of Jack the Ripper
The Birthday Party – Junkyard
The Cramps – Songs the Lord Taught Us