Album Review: Graveyard Johnnys – “Dead Transmission”

Graveyard Johnnys
Dead Transmission
(Bomber Music)

The Graveyard Johnnys spit restrained, yet raucous rockabilly. While the mid 2000’s surge of rockabilly and psychobilly is long gone, a few bands still carry the banner. In my area, New England, a pulse, while fading, still pushes forward. There is the New England Shake Up yearly. Brooklyn still rep’s with a monthly surf/garage/psycho scene at Otto’s Shrunken Head. Viva La Vegas and Ink & Iron grow larger each year. Point being, a viable scene is still thriving if you look. Worldwide, bands like Three Bad Jacks, The Brains, Kim Lenz, and The Peacocks still rock on. Hell, The Reverend Horton Heat and The Meteors have put out new albums in recent years.

The Graveyard Johnnys have been making this music, regardless of how big a scene is, since 2008. With Dead Transmission, they continue to energize a fledgling heartbeat. The South Wales trio’s passion ignited on this record emerges as talented and genuine. Gritty execution, equipped with a pop backbeat, propels Graveyard Johnnys’ sound loudly and furiously. Their main drive is their guitar sound. Tuned in a Turbo ACs type thick grunge, the title track pumps with nasty energy. A chaotic gang chorus unleashes the band’s strengths. The next track, however, steps back from big guitars and harnesses the rockabilly thinner strum. The stand-up bass and infectious drums push this naughty ditty. Clean production can be a distraction for simple rock and roll; but with bands like The Matadors and Graveyard Johnnys, bands can use it to focus on the fun elements of the genre. And following track, “One Day Forever”, has the same formula, but has a more open and lighter guitar sound, altering the feel.

One of my favorite aspects of rockabilly is the dark, looming atmosphere. It can be done quietly (see Wicked Whiskey) or in your face, like a Los Gatos Locos. Graveyard Johnnys go from the quick, minute-and-a-half, “Beause of You”, to “One Day Forever”. Respectively, the mood oozes from a bitter anger to solemn regret in the vocals and guitar tones. Back to a short fuse, “I Won’t Wait” erupts into a high-octane, jaded rant over a jangly sound bed. Order another whiskey.

Graveyard Johnnys walk the line of catchiness, but never cross that thin line that can alienate fans. In this genre, bands can very easily slip into polished pop. We have to recall that it is all rock n roll; which was spawned to fuel teenage hormones and dancing shoes. There are bands that grow and lighten up on the grit, which I feel sparks this sound. Graveyard Johnnys keep it real ,for lack of a better term. The vocals, when screaming – especially on “I Won’t Wait” – are bellowed from a smoky, bourbon drenched throat. A fun surprise in this track has GYJ throwing in a hardcore/metal breakdown in the last third. This echoes back to a time when Tombstone Brawlers or Gein and the Graverobbers never shied from their Slayer or Maiden influences.

There is a reason that rockabilly and psychobilly are called the nursing homes for aging punks and skins. Graveyard Johnnys translate their youthful punk vigor into the traditional sound revived in the eighties. From the commercially viable Stray Cats to the beginning of the horror tinged Torment, Frantic Flintstones, Frenzy and Demented Are Go. Graveyard Johnnys stick more the traditional topics of rocking, drinking, and lamenting but triumph the buzz of all these bands. Many tall boy cans will be crushed tonight. (Hutch)

Purchase Dead Transmission here.

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