THE LAST HORROR MOVIE - The Scared Stiffs (Poptown Records)
I don’t profess to be a fan of horror movies, whether it’s the thick mascara and heavily-orchestrated drama of Bela Lugosi, or the fake blood and high pitched screams of the teen-horror flicks of more recent times. Horror, in my subjective perspective, is best illustrated by the opening pages of Bram Stoker’s Dracula – or being forced to witness the preparation of food (and then consume it) in any suburban McDonald’s restaurant. In the world of rock’n’roll, horror has its place – Alice Cooper is the most high profile original practitioner of the horror rock genre (apologies for either misrepresenting a previously invented genre, or for gratuitously creating a new genre), The Cramps are arguably the high water mark in horror rock (apologies again) while in more recent times the aptly-titled Horrors took a leaf from various glam rock books and made it up to seem vaguely iconoclastic. Which it wasn’t, despite the efforts of the band’s marketing arm.
The Scared Stiffs from New York are another in a line of bands happy to utlilise the horror imagery – complete with primary school quality eye make-up and pissweak ghoulish poses on the insert and back cover to its new album, The Last Horror Movie (all with plenty of irony, it must be noted).
Not surprisingly the opening (title) track is the scene setter, the sort of tune you’d expect to find in the midst of a teen-slasher movie, and replete with post-Detroit heavy rock riffs and perfectly weighted rhyming couplets. The tone of "She’s Got a Frankenstein" is strongly reminiscent of Lime Spiders in their halcyon early days, and "Have You Ever Seen (The Walkin’ Dead)" staggers with the threatening attack of Jeffrey Lee Pierce awoken from his drug-induced permanent slumber.
There’s "No Wonder I’m 6 Feet Under" has pretensions to MC5 in its "Back in the USA" days (and it’s fair to say the drug habits of certain members of that band gave them a rather horrific appearance) and "Dirt Nappin’" is '50s rock’n’roll of the style and quality Eddie Cochrane was championing when his number was unfortunately called, mixed with a sick sense of humour you’d expect from a bunch of New Yorkers.
"Medicated" is angry to the point of heavy metallic and "Some Things Are Better Left Undead" should be the theme song to the Eagles’ next reunion tour – but the music itself has enough spark to provide the life West Coast rock has tried to excise from us all.
At that point the picture’s probably clear enough – the song titles are straight out of the horror dictionary ("Nosferatu", "Dead Girls Are Easy", "Let’s Put the F-U-N in Funeral", "Body Shoppin"’) and the music’s a deft blend of 50s rock, garage, surf and occasional forays into the realm of 1970s stadium rock. The break from the classic schlock musical formula – the sick and countrified Knoxville Girl being a good example – is a welcome relief (as indeed is the sweet and loving necrophilia themed rock that opens Dead Girls Are Easy). There’s a bonus video for "The Last Horror Movie" title track, but my computer is too primitive to deal with it, so you’ll have to check it out on YouTube or one of those young person music video sites.
The last horror film I watched was (I think) "Evil Dead 2". The cinematic experience wasn’t great, and while there’s no certainty The Scared Stiffs will ever be elevated to the status of cult legends to match the Evil Dead films, the band’s artistic quality far exceeds your average forgettable horror film. - Patrick Emery
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