Review

Review

'Mondo Zombie Boogaloo' Album Review

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We're just getting started serving up some spooky Halloween jams for October, and next up is Mondo Zombie Boogaloo – a vintage-style collection featuring new spins on old standards and classic horror flicks, plus a few original surprises, all courtesy of three revered old-school rock legends. Assembled by Yep Roc Records, Mondo is a wild and energetic mashup of several musical eras: it taps into the '60s, when “monster kids” hit the beaches by day, watched The Munsters in prime-time and bopped the night away to “The Monster Mash,” then jumps to the late '70s for the kind of horror-infused punk and psychobilly made famous by the Misfits and The Cramps, and for good measure, stops off for a few loving homages to horror movie themes from the '70s and '80s. When it comes to vintage Halloween party rock, there's plenty to love in here, adding up to a rowdy, roof-raising undead fiesta.
 
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Since this record is a unique kind of compilation – a kind of sampler showcasing the talents of three beloved bands, as well as a personal celebration of our favorite time of year – I'm going to flip my usual script and give you a little background on each of the artists contributing to this collection, with a summary of the ghoulish goodies each group brings to the party.
 
Los Straitjackets
 
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For my jukebox coin, the most entertaining tracks here come courtesy of this Grammy-nominated surf rock quartet, who long ago opted to conceal their identities behind flashy Lucha Libre masks (which, of course, provide them with ready-made Halloween costumes) when dealing out their celebrated brand of '60s-style instrumental surf rock. Imagine if Pulp Fiction starred a cast of suave masked wrestlers, then threw them in the ring with monsters and robots, and you'll start to get the drift. In addition to the light and breezy "It’s Monster Surfing Time," which sports a few non-verbal zombie grunts, and the thunderclap-filled "Ghoul on a Hill," the 'jackets turn out some of the most memorable cover tunes on the album, including a genuinely creepy up-tempo rendition of John Carpenter's classic Halloween theme, a dreamy waltz-time version of Young Frankenstein and a twisty go-go spin on Ghostbusters, as well as the hilarious "Que Monstruos Son," a Spanish-language take on “The Monster Mash,” complete with a dead-on (no pun intended) imitation of Bobby “Boris” Pickett's original vocal delivery.
 
The Fleshtones
 
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A long-standing name in the annals of garage rock, The Fleshtones (frontman Peter Zaremba, guitarist Keith Streng, bassist Ken Fox and drummer Bill Milhizer) have been kicking out the jams since the mid-'70s, and are still raising the roof today, modeling their straight-no-chaser style on the garage bands of the '50s and '60s, with a twang of rockabilly and bright licks of rock organ and bluesy harmonica. Their refreshingly irony-free approach allows them to take a witty jab at millennial posers with the flashy, fuzzed-out "Haunted Hipster" (“Every day is Halloween for you”) before calling upon our beloved classic monsters for the raunchy, lo-fi "Dracula-A-GoGo" and switching to bouncy goth-sock-hop antics for "(Sock It To Me Baby) In the House of Shock,” and you can almost picture Scooby and the gang rocking out to "Ghoulman Confidential" (which you can hear below).
 
Southern Culture on the Skids
 
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If you take your Halloween punch with a shot of rotgut whiskey, then this North Carolina trio could be your poison of choice. Formed thirty years ago, the team of vocalist/guitarist Rick Miller, vocalist/bassist Mary Huff and drummer Dave Hartman serve up what they describe as “Americana from the wrong side of the tracks,” which in this case means a spicy brew of rockabilly, R&B, punk and surf-rock – a combo that, in theory, should result in fuzzy, twangy chaos, but in execution is incredibly tight and catchy, and packs a potent sonic gut-punch. Without a doubt their coolest offering is a splashy cover of The Cramps' "Goo Goo Muck” – the original of which you may recall from the soundtrack to Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Running a very close second is "Tingler Blues," a shuffling, smoldering homage to the cheesy (but still awesome) William Castle gimmick-flick The Tingler (complete with a Vincent Price soundbite), followed by the hard-rocking 3/4 time instrumental "La Marcha De Los Cabarones." They round out their set with the folksy ballad "The Loneliest Ghost in Town," and close the album with the ultra-spooky, feedback-drenched "Demon Death."
 
It's time to mix up your Halloween playlist with a taste of Autumns long past, so start by ditching those bargain compilation CDs full of the same old novelty songs and then dig into Mondo Zombie Boogaloo. It's a perfect balance of unironic Halloween kitsch and no-bullshit vintage radio rock, and it should perk up the ears of even your most jaded party guests. It's available in multiple formats, of which I'm partial to the vinyl edition – not only because these tunes are so perfectly suited to that old-fashioned needle drop, but because the awesome cover art needs to be appreciated in all its 12-inch glory.
 
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These bands will be embarking on a special Halloween tour this month, with Los Straitjackets and The Fleshtones paring up for shows from October 17th through the 20th, after which they'll be joined by Southern Culture for all remaining shows through November 2nd. Visit Yep Roc's official site to order tickets. But first, give "Ghoulman Confidential" a spin!
 
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