(Seriously) Groovy Ghoulies
Exterior shot of Laguna Beach at night. It’s high tide beneath a full, cloud-shrouded moon and the waves are monstrous, exploding like thunder as they crash on the shore. Slow pan across the deserted dunes bathed in eerie half-light until we come to the bases of two poles, planted at skewed angles in the sand. Begin panning up the poles slowly, as the waves pound on to a deafening crescendo, until we see the grisly objects spiked upon the bloody points . . . THE SEVERED HEADS OF FRANKIE AND ANNETTE!
Cue music: loud, raucous, and blistering—The Ghastly Ones, ripping through just about any track from their 1998 debut album A-Haunting We Will Go-Go (Zombie-A-Go-Go Records—Rob Zombie’s label), a collection of 16 monster surf tunes guaranteed to set the mood for your next Sterno-drinking party, lycanthropic rampage, “Big Daddy” Ed Roth-style drag race, or the occasion when you finally snap and use your sister’s fucking ‘NSync CD to forcibly lobotomize her and her airhead friends.
The Ghastly Ones (Dr. Lehos—guitar, Sir Go Go Ghastly—bass, Baron Shimmy Shivers—drums, occasional vocals) play surf, which is not the Beach Boys or Jan and Dean, but the twangy, beat-driven morsels of Dick Dale and the Del-Tones (you heard “Miserlou” over the opening credits of Pulp Fiction), The Ventures (“Telstar”), The Surfaris (“Wipeout”), and Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (the theme and bumper music from The Kids in the Hall). The surf instrumental is one of those sublime musical forms that if you don’t love it, you just don’t get it, Jack. It exists on that nether plane of sheer dangerous cool that few have the guts to enter and no one ever leaves—the plane of B-monster movies, high-octane speed, Santo epics, and go-go girls from the Planet of the Deadly Ultravixens, where Mamie Van Doren and Tura Satana command the legions of the undead from atop the thrumming hoods of souped-up flame-painted Thunderbirds. It’s the place of Quentin Tarentino’s fever dreams, where he hopes to someday go if he can stop himself from being a thoroughgoing spaz before he dies . . . .
A-Haunting We Will Go-Go should be listened to in one sitting as it takes The Ghastly Ones, who play in undertaker’s top hats and Count Five capes, on a joyride through the surf necroscape in their overcharged hearse, with groovin’ gravediggers and go-go ghouls flying past the windows. Suddenly there is a dialogue track where the boys encounter a spooky old house. They enter, not suspecting that they have stumbled upon the lair of the fiendish Doctor Diabolo, who vows their destruction at the hands of his atomic robot. Fortunately, though, right and might are on the Ghastly Ones’ side in the form of Los Campiones del Justicio—El Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Mascaras—who soundly defeat the nefarious Diabolo. The day saved, Our Heroes head back to kick the crypt and do the Ghastly Stomp. Good has triumphed—but for how long?
The album is packed with Fender-bending rave-ups from start to finish. A couple of the tracks are a tad generic and in the two numbers on which the Baron sings his Wolfman Jack-style delivery is a bit grating, but these are surrounded by so much tasty stuff it doesn’t matter. Among the standout tracks: the hyperkinetic “Hangman Hangten” and “Surfin’ Spooks”; the Link Wray-ish “Haulin’ Hearse”; “Thunderhead” and “Los Campiones del Justicio”, which feature Dick Dale-type Latin riffs; “Lonesome Undertaker”, a moody Ventures-style piece; and the machine-gun drumming behind “Attack of Robot Atomico”.
The packaging of this album is a delight, as well. Band photos are framed as part of a set of Ghastly Ones trading cards, along with pics of Doctor Diabolo and a Go-Go Ghoul Girl cutting a rug with a menacing alien. There are instructions, with foot diagrams, on how to do the Ghastly Stomp. The whole package is done in the spirit of Famous Monsters of Filmland (when that magazine still had Forry Ackerman and a soul), and is evidence of the affection the band and their label have for the blood-and-cheese genre that we know and love.
A-Haunting We Will Go-Go is a welcome blast of sound from the darkest regions of the Audioverse. It gives me hope that in the midst of all the dead and soulless crap clogging up the world there is still real music shambling from beyond the grave, by three rockin’ ghouls whose diabolical handiwork is very much alive.