It’s time for a psychobilly freakout!
Yes, psychobilly, that fascinating cross breed between punk, rockabilly and thrash metal is a genre that really was designed to eternally fly under the radar of even most rock listeners, let alone mainstream music. With one hit in Australia (by the fantastic punkabilly The Living End), the genre isn’t exactly a mainstream darling, but that in itself means that each punkabilly release is a surprise, a bolt of inspiration straight out of the blue, and this is no less true with The Devil Made us Do it, the tenth album from the Brighton based Long Tall Texans, a testament to the sustained international underground appeal of such a bizarre genre.
The Long Tall Texans, like a lot of British Americana-esque bands, cannot help but be unique, and for the four piece this really shows itself in a love for the particular British tradition of Punk, a tradition with a particular ethos and degree of mainstream success opposed to the later American waves of underground punk. Rockabilly and Punk always go hand in hand, but there is something tangibly different to this, both in terms of double-bassist Mark’s penchant for Johnny Rotten-esque snarls as well as an eschewing of the pure pace that really embodies The Living End’s fare and the works of The Reverend Horton Heat. This is certainly heard best on Kamikaze Killer, a great thunderous piece of rockabilly/hardcore fusion, right down to the slipping of Mark’s southern affections in the vocals, going very English indeed for the verses.
Unlike the Rev in particular, which roars and thrusts forward with the pace of a runaway steam engine, The Long Tall Texans use a far more refined slower though no less intense tempo. This for the most part works in their favour, allowing atmosphere and a particular adoration for Americana to really shine through, in a way that is deliberately eschewed in the former and that gives way to insanity in the latter.
And this atmosphere manifests itself in a great many forms, from the great twangy catchiness of Sex and Beer and Psychobilly, to the rock and roll love song parody in the brilliantly named What Part of Fuck off Don’t You Understand? Along with this you have the classic horror movie pastiche in I Used to Feel Funny, a song that probably benefits most from a slower pace, which lets the great crunching rhythm guitar co-exist with the b-movie-ish vocals for that perfect encapsulation of the “drive-in theater” experience.
The real highlight of the album is the final track, Feels Like Ice, which, in a rarity for any punk genre, has tempo and time signature changes. It also uses the b-movie aesthetic in the best possible way, detailing a fatally toxic relationship in the same way one would talk about a vampire attack. The metaphor works really well here, which gets it bonus points since the track’s mix of bouncy chugging blues chords and sudden bursts of punky goodness makes the track really soar.
In terms of album statistics, it is forty minutes and twelve tracks, which is really enough for any punk-inspired band. Like a lot of punk they’re not exactly album statements, and if there is any criticism to come it is that the album does flag, with more than a couple of tracks feeling redundant. This is really only a problem if the album is played through in its entirety, and so as part of a rotation there’s absolutely no fundamental problem with any of the tracks, but it is something to keep in mind if one is insistent on listening to albums the “proper” way, that around Terry up to the fantastic Covered in Sin are three tracks that kind of feel like they’re there to make up the numbers.
In short, if you’re fan of Psychobilly this is a must have, that much was clear before the review began, but for the unconverted? This is probably one of the best recent examples, and has enough great crossover moments to really hit the mark. It’s not deep, not brutal and not hardcore, but it is a hell of a lot of fun and really good to listen to when you get sick of all three of those.
Review: David Rose