GO! STORIES - Groovie Ghoulies (Stardumb)

Not the lame cartoon (a poor man's Adams Family, if you ask me) but the Sacramento, California, pop-punk band, now on prolific Dutch label Stardumb. This is album number seven (the other six are on Lookout) and a lot of fun it is, too.

There's a whole gamut of similar sounding acts treading the boards of dive clubs across the States right now, but I'll be there aren't many who enjoy their work as much as the Groovie Ghoulies. Their cartoonish image, penchant for decorating their stage with kitsch toys and enthusiasm for throwing gimmicks to the fans mid-gig might piss off the more serious-minded punters, but it suits the bright and breezy thrash attack of their music to a tee.

Roach's buzzsaw guitarwork and Kepi's brattish, singalong vocals make the Ghoulies a band of speed-riffing Archies for a Post-9/11 Generation. They might be a decade older than most of their (prospective) fans, but they sound positively like eternal teenagers.

The opener, "Let's Do It Again" (not the Sonics Rendezvous tune) makes it clear from the get-go that the Groovies are about high velocity guitars. This is punk rock in short, jolting doses. For a three-piece (one member is absent for this disc) they sure make a helluva noise. The Ghoulies don't mind stepping outside the square either, with a cover of a song by UK stadium act Super Furry Animals ("Chupacabras") one of the best things here. Neil Young may have claimed the title "Are You Passionate?" for his latest album but the Groovies make their own of that name a passing moment of reflection: "Are you passionate?/Do you love what you do?/Cos I am and I'm telling you/If you're a hitman, a hooker or punk rock booker/Be passionate, or don't do it at all".

"Rat Race" is a sub-minute (instrumental) mile that betrays hot rod tendencies, "Ghoulies are Go!" the sort of singalong punk bop for which the band is renowned. Stardumb have a swollen roster of these sorts of bands but I can't help feeling that the addition of the Groovie Ghoulies has them feeling particularly chuffed. (The GGs apparently do good business in Europe and, after a decade-plus on the road, they must set some sort of benchmark for the Continental up-and-comers.)

Every CD collection should have a disc like this nestling somewhere on the shelves. It doesn't plumb any depths of emotionalism or pretend to be anything but bright and bouncy, even in its more clever moments ("School is In", "And I Don't Want to Be Like That".) My only jarring criticism is that it only runs to 28 minutes. Reminds me of Sydney band Ratcat, a little (before they became mega-successful and "uncool".) Beats watching cartoons. - The Barman