The Groovie Ghoulies

Travels With My Amp

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If you've come aboard for their previous adventures, a new Groovie Ghoulies album is a family reunion of sorts -- the eccentrics and oddballs are there, like a barbecue at your Uncle Herbert's house. Except this gathering's guest list includes a space alien or goblin, along with your rebel cousins -- the Ghoulies -- who you sneak out back with to set things on fire and exchange fantasies about hitting the road once and for all. The Groovie Ghoulies' 2000 album, Travels With My Amp, brings the festivities to you, soaked with the smell of asphalt, motor oil, and truck-stop hash browns. Opening with a spaghetti western stampede, "Boothill Express," the road references, fed by the thousands of miles the band has clocked on tour while spreading their pogo-pogo revelry, also inspires "The Highwayman." This ode to the roads lacing the country has the melodic mid-tempo purr of tires on a deserted highway. But for those who turn to the Ghoulies for the sweet stuff -- love songs -- don't be alarmed, the daughter of Frankenstein and a blue-skinned beauty both earn romantic paeans. And the other side of the coin, love gone wrong, gets poked with tender humor in "I'd Rather Be Alone," with an achy guitar melody, and "Bye Bye Brain," the song for you if you suspect your ex has sought solace with a voodoo doll. The Ghoulies unleash their familiar spry punk, but with a taut clean sound and less garage fuzz than previous albums, presenting a leaner, meaner Ghoulie groove. Now with six albums under their belt, this effort also presents the band's most stable lineup in recent history, with Kepi's soulful yelp and Roach's coolly snarling guitar here nailed down by the jaunty basslines of B-Face (formerly of the Queers), returning for his second album. Drummer Amy, who has since split, provides a playful beat throughout. A sure sign of the band's songwriting development is the presence of only one cover on this album of bright pop songs, rather than the two or three on past records. They unleash a cool, twisting party with Jonathon Richman's "Dancing Late at Night." They've smoothed a few edges, but don't worry -- they show no signs of growing up.

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