Joe Grogan: vocals and stand up bass
Callum Houston: guitar
Tom Lord: drums
1. The Poison
2. For Tonight
3. Dead Transmission
4. Because of You
5. One Day Or Forever
6. Ready to Roll
7. I Won’t Wait
10. Little Witch
Since its birth in 1950’s America, rockabilly has seen a fair few twists and turns in both its sound and appearance. Rockers the Stray Cats brought it back in a big way a few decades ago, and since then it has grown into a full blown genre of its own (neo-rockabilly), with a distinct look and firm idea of how it ‘should’ sound.
Entering the fray back in 2008 was Welshmen Graveyard Johnnys, who added touches of punk and even Irish folk to create their own lively and innovative sound. A self-funded EP (Streetblocks and City Lights) caught the attention of Radio 1 Punk Show DJ Mike Davies, which led to heavy rotation and several sold out pressings of said EP. They released their debut full length album Songs From Better Days in 2010, adding guitarist Callum Houston to their lineup (which is completed by Joe Grogan on vocals and stand up bass and Tom Lord on drums), and being picked up by German label Wolverine Records in the process. Their second album Dead Transmission was released in mid-May of this year.
The album opens with the rather ambitious ‘The Poison’: at almost five minutes long it is the lengthiest track here. A marching intro builds up to a pacy, perky rockabilly number, liberally doused with a bolshy punk attitude. Grogan’s raspy, hollering vocals and his stand up bass are the foundation upon which the song is built – indeed, as they are for every song.
The rest of the album is a veritable treasure trove of rockabilly and punk, with the occasional touch of ‘something else’ here and there (an indie feel to the jaunty ‘For Tonight’; a folky, Pogues-esque trace in ‘One Day Or Forever’; a little bit of country in the sincere balladry of ‘Mothers’), which raises the album above the ordinary. No, Graveyard Johnnys haven’t reinvented the wheel here; what the have done is really showcase the sheer fun of rockabilly. Put this album on at a party and folk will be up dancing before you can say ‘Brian Setzer’.
Album highlight is the ‘could-this-be-about-a-girl-yep-I-reckon-so’ track ‘I Won’t Wait’, with its pure rockabilly sound, ‘screw you’ lyrics (“I’d rather be alone than be with you…you are full of shit”) and energetic syncopated beat. It barely edges out the rest of the album however, such is the consistently high standard of all the songs.
So if you are in any way a rockabilly fan – you unconsciously bop along to the music played at any tattoo convention, you like Elvis or the Stray Cats or The Living End, or you simply think you could rock a quiff or a Fifties pin-up dress – Graveyard Johnnys will undoubtedly leaving you grinning. Grab your Brylcreem and your dancing shoes and turn it up…