HorrorPops Hell Yeah!

[Hellcat; 2004]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: rockabilly, psychobilly, death rock, nü-punk
Others: Reverend Horton Heat, The Cramps, Rancid

Sometimes a band's name conveys a sense of what their music actually sounds like, without the listener ever having heard them. This is especially true of punk, garage, and metal bands. I had reasonably high hopes for HorrorPops' debut album, Hell Yeah! With its hip packaging, kitschy imagery, and faux gothic cover art, in addition to just the band name alone, I was expecting a solid psychobilly release along the lines of The Cramps, The Reverend Horton Heat, or Satan's Pilgrims. Released on Hellcat Records, a subsidiary of Epitaph, and home to label mates Rancid and The Dropkick Murphys, this record is more along the lines of a slightly less metal and slightly more rockabilly version of The Offspring, only with a female vocalist.

The record is highly polished and overtly contemporary sounding, almost to the point at which it sounds deliberate and forced. HorrorPops, collectively, have a Cramps-meets-Social Distortion appearance; sultry and sexy vocalist Patricia has the gothabilly look down, with her Bride of Frankenstein fright wig hairdo and ghoulishly airbrushed skull double bass. However, she comes off sounding a bit too much like a cross between Pat Benatar and No Doubt's Gwen Stefani (particularly on the obligatory ska track "Girl in a Cage"). Another of the tracks, "Dotted With Hearts," starts off in a promising manner, and then ends up sounding like No Doubt's "Spiderwebs." The fretwork on this record is incredibly fluid, and the rhythm section is extremely capable. With a band as talented as this, the options could have been limitless; instead, they clearly opted to appeal to the under-21 crowd (to whom these guys will undoubtedly sound "authentic"). The closing track, the surf instrumental "Horror Beach," even features a Metallica riff. Perhaps Metallica are, in fact, considered "classic rock" to HorrorPops' target demographic. Almost all the songs get off to a halfway decent start, and then descend into punk-pop territory a la Rancid and Green Day.

Again, this is not to say that HorrorPops are a bunch of no-talent hacks. Patricia has a terrific singing voice, and her double bass slapping is impressive. All the tracks are catchy; the songwriting and hooks are reasonably solid. There's nothing necessarily wrong with being derivative or wearing your influences on your sleeve, but this is a case of style over substance. Instead of aiming for an air of rockabilly authenticity, or even taking some creative license and attempting to carry the psychobilly sound in a more original direction, perhaps HorrorPops decided to cash in on the moment and create an album that would sound good over the loudspeaker at Hot Topic. Or perhaps I'm just getting too old.

1. Julia
2. Drama Queen
3. Ghouls
4. Girl in a Cage
5. Miss Take
6. Where they Wander
7. Cool Flat Top
8. Psychobitches Outta Hell
9. Dotted Hearts
10. Baby Lou Tattoo
11. What's Under My Bed
12. Emotional Abuse
13. Horror Beach

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