Angry Johnny & The Killbillies


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Angry Johnny's got a voice like dirty tar on toast: It's nasty and it goes down hard. It also happens to fit Hankenstein perfectly, a textbook example of that cagey beast of a subgenre known as "psychobilly." The tunes are all hardcore hootenanny material, and bandmembers Jim Joe Greedy, Al Camino, and Sleepy Animall Kaisla rollick through the numbers with a mad abandon. Lyrically, the tunes focus mostly on macabre twists on traditional country motifs. "Life, Love, Death and the Meter Man" tells the tale of a man so upset about his wife's suspected infidelity that he hacks the meter man to pieces with a chainsaw. "Poor Little Raccoon" explores roadkill, while "Prison Walls" is a wailing plea from a man in the big house. What brings it all together is Angry Johnny's vocals -- the man can barely carry a tune, yet his tortured howls seem to be the only voice that could accurately convey the mix of morbidity and pathos at the heart of these songs. It's not a pretty voice. It's not even enjoyable to listen to all the time. But you cannot deny the anger and passion behind it. If you can let yourself into the music and swallow that tar-covered toast, you may find yourself carried away by the music's momentum. Otherwise, Hankenstein is an album best left to psychobilly aficionados and those who probably can't carry a tune that well themselves.

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