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You never knew you loved... Loving psychobilly easy

Amy Plachta | Interrobang | Lifestyles | October 26th, 2009



There are plenty of websites and services out there designed to give you more of what you already love. Between tags, trends, and listening habits gleaned from various playlists, it isn't difficult for software to generate a list of recommendations that you'll probably like because they sound a lot like things you already do.

So what if you want to hear something totally different?

Might I recommend some psychobilly?

This punk sub-genre combines rockabilly bass lines and lyrics that could have been pulled out of a campy horror flick with driving punk rhythms. The rock standard electric bass is replaced with an upright that provides percussive slaps as readily as notes.

Tongue-in-cheek references to horror and science fiction make up a lot of the lyrical content. Haunted houses, coffins, zombies, and demons add a unique flavour to songs that, at their core, centre on the same topics as pop: love, longing, and loss.

Psychobilly is more than just a sound. The fashion that goes with it is an analogous combination of 1950s hot-rod culture and 1970s punk. Pompadours ride shotgun to inked body art, and women in the genre have all the bawdy sex appeal of Suicide Girls.

While the term ‘psychobilly' was first used in association with Johnny Cash's One Piece at a Time, most of its music was made in the UK up until the last couple of decades, when it gained a foothold in Southern California thanks to The Cramps.

Since then, it has grown to become a major player among sub-genres, with plenty of bands claiming the name. To help distill the masses, here are a few choice bands you can look into:

HorrorPops: This Danish three-piece appeals to a pop-oriented audience. Lead singer Patricia Day's melodies are catchy and singable, and while songs are built over an upright bass, the overall feel is more pop than punk. Check out Miss Take off their 2004 album Hell Yeah!

Nekromantix: Few psychobilly bands exemplify the lyrical conventions of the genre quite like Nekromantix. With album titles like Demons are a Girl's Best Friend and Dead Girls Don't Cry, they inject fitting humour into dark subjects. Listen to the title track off 1991's Curse of the Coffin.

Tiger Army: With a sound halfway between psychobilly and surf punk, this band's discography boasts more punk compilations than albums and EPs combined. They cut their teeth in the mid-nineties next to psychobilly pioneers The Meteors. Try Cupid's Victim off of 2001's Tiger Army II: Power of Moonlight.

Or, if you're looking for something local, check out Toronto-based The Creepshow at Call The Office on November 7 for an all ages show.
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