Young Werewolves: Cheat the Devil

if you?re one who thinks the addition of Sid Haig will make just about anything ten times as cool, then you should sink your fangs into Cheat the Devil...

Review by Gregory S. Burkart

Some of our regular visitors may already know about the return of Philly-based horror rockers The Young Werewolves, who followed up their well-received eponymous 2004 release with a stint as the official band of last year?s AMC Monsterfest, and enlisted the high-profile participation of beloved cult icon Sid Haig (Spider Baby, The Devil?s Rejects, and so many more) as executive producer of their spankin? new album Cheat the Devil. Sure, those are perfectly good reasons to gravitate to this inventive and talented trio, but don?t forget there?s some great music going on behind all the fuss.

Cheat the Devil is a pretty kick-ass album in its own right, and rises miles above the trio?s wry self-description as ?The Ramones meet Buddy Holly at a Beef-and-Beer.? But still, the participation of Mr. Haig does serve to magnify the coolness factor several points ? and they quite rightly play to type by featuring a goateed, chrome-domed Sid as poker-playing Satan on the album?s cover art. You gotta love that.

At first pass, this collection of terror tunes seems to adhere tightly to the familiar tropes of horror-themed surf, garage and rockabilly (often slapped with the catch-all label ?Psychobilly?) familiar to fans of Calabrese, Nekromantix, the Horrorpops and countless others. But don?t dismiss them too quickly ? there?s a hardcore punk edge to these songs that?s meaner and more threatening then their usually playful counterparts. When these hipster wolves bare their fangs, it?s more than just a smile.

The licks are creepy-cool right out of the gate with opener ?Hollywood,? a thunderous anthem propelled by the blistering Rob Zombie-esque vocal style of Nick Falcon and a surprisingly catchy one-word chorus. The smoldering, Joan Jett-like vocal approach of ?Shewolf? Dana Kain grabs the mic in ?Mischief Night? and ?Run Away,? both of which are lyrically strong, musically hooky and feature Falcon?s sparkling guitar work. ?Cheatin? the Devil? is an explosion of old-school punk, and demands playing at extreme volume.

Of course, no album featuring the behind-the-scenes participation of Sig Haig would be worth its buzz without the familiar vocal stylings of the man himself somewhere in there? and thankfully, we do get a taste at the album?s halfway mark, in the form of a creepy spoken-word intro (complete with demonic laughter) to the ominous ?Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.? Despite this welcome contribution, and pretty cool lyrics to boot, this isn?t as creepy-fun as it could have been. Same goes for ?Gala Monster Rally,? which is a little too deliberately ?Halloween-novelty-track? for my taste. ?Guns, Guns Guns? is full-swing rockabilly, but again has that off-kilter LA punk edge (with just a touch of horror) that sets it apart. ?Shapeshifter? and ?Tattoed Aliens? have a certain ?80s B-movie vibe that would feel right at home in that imaginary Killer Klowns sequel you always wished they?d made.

Surprisingly (or maybe not, depending on your appreciation of the original), the hands-down highlight is the final track (unlisted on the CD), the band?s rousing cover of Duran Duran?s ?Hungry like the Wolf? ? with a title upgrade to ?Werewolf,? natch. It?s over the top, but not enough to push it into the ?novelty? category; in fact, it could stand up as a crowd-pleasing theme song for the band, and would be an excellent encore for a live show? if they aren?t doing that already. Definitely check this one out.

If you like your spooky retro-rock less tongue-in-cheek and more boot-in-ass, with a darker, more aggressive edge? or if you?re one who thinks the addition of Sid Haig will make just about anything ten times as cool, then you should sink your fangs into Cheat the Devil as soon as inhumanly possible.