Calabrese: The Traveling Vampire Show

Review by Gregory S. Burkart
In case you missed The Traveling Vampire Show on its first pass through your neck of the woods, this follow-up to their well-received 2004 debut 13 Halloweens is worth your patronage. Technically and musically more accomplished, not to mention simmering with malicious glee, Vampire Show demonstrates that the plucky Brothers Calabrese (yes, they are actually brothers ? Bobby Jimmy and Davey) have quickly grown into hirsute, werewolf-like musical manhood.

As you may have inferred from some of my previous entries here, I'm always a bit cautious when approaching self-proclaimed horror bands. Aside from the obvious influence of The Misfits, The Cramps or The Damned, in reality so many of these bands are merely the violent bastard children of Bobby ?Boris? Pickett's 1962 novelty record ?The Monster Mash?... they're plenty of fun to rock out to while gorging yourself on the Halloween candy you decided not to give to the local brats, but like said candy, over-indulgence begins to make you sick to your stomach.

That's why I'm always relieved when I hear a band that can make songs about vampires, werewolves and sexed-up ghouls seem appealing year-round, because very few of them are capable of pulling this off. I said it before about Creature Feature, and I'm happy to say it again, because Calabrese is one of those bands who, despite adhering to the tropes of monster-themed punk rock, manages to distinguish their music through clever songwriting, superior technical skill and a knack for crafting excellent hooks, and I find myself coming back to their songs on a regular basis instead of shelving them until the leaves start turning again.

Starting with the childhood spirit of those late Saturday nights spent mesmerized by Frankenstein movies on the tube, then slamming them headlong into puberty with a dose of sex, gore and wry humor, these lightning-fast songs synthesize those elements into a bubbling elixir; the unifying theme is one of undead malcontents roaming the night packing a bottle of Old Crow, a pack of smokes and an insatiable thirst for the warm red stuff: the title ?Saturday Night of the Living Dead? in itself sums up the spirit of the album, and it's a hilarious love song to boot.

Other standout tracks include ?Vampires Don't Exist,? in which the usual tattered horror-movie soundbite (pun intended) introduces the lament of a bitter young rebel who didn't believe in vampires... until he became one. ?Children of the Night? is a clever nod to goth and punk culture, espousing the idea that since you look like a vampire anyway, you might as well join the club and commiserate with genuine gloomy denizens of the underworld. ?The Young Princes of Darkness,? is a powerful anthem which would make a sweet encore, but my favorite is the final track, ?The House of Mysterious Secrets? ? any song with the lyric ?The chase... makes the blood taste sweeter? is a keeper in my book.

I wouldn't have thought it going in, but opting to focus entirely on vampires for the duration of a 12-track album is actually refreshing ? it's not so much a concept album as a collection of punk poetry, sung in the words of its own fast-living, undying, good-looking corpses. If you are thinking of dabbling in horror-punk, first check out the classics, but then give these guys a spin... this album speeds along like a black Mopar monster with a silver-skull gearshift knob, and may leave you breathless in its wake. Think of it as road-trip music for the undead.