“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah…”
Maybe it’s an homage, maybe it’s a dismissal, or maybe it’s completely unrelated, but before kicking off the music, we hear a voice sneering those four syllables at the outset of Horrorpops’ 2005 release Bring it On!. The significance is that one of the closest points of reference available when trying to describe Horrorpops is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, particularly the similarity in the attitudes of the two groups’ vocalists. Horrorpops’ Patricia Day sometimes bears an eerie vocal resemblance to Karen O, particularly when the former is trying a sneer on for size, as she often did on Horrorpops’ debut Hell Yeah!. Bring it On!, however, is the first step of a band expanding beyond the aggressive, psychobilly template that it built for itself on that debut—a bigger variety of sounds combined with crisp production and a healthy dollop of pop hookmaking have resulted in a much more well-rounded (not to mention enjoyable) effort.
That’s not to say by any means that the band’s rockabilly roots and punk attitude have disappeared. That is an upright bass being smashed Townsend style on the album cover, after all.
The title track is the most worthy candidate in the search for a pure adrenaline rush on Bring it On!, starting with a heavy, fast, chugga-chugga-style guitar attack before that signature bass sound comes in to propel the song into its verse. Little keyboard touches in the pre-chorus and Day’s melodic Shirley Manson-by-way-of-Gwen Stefani delivery make the song an imminently listenable and enjoyable track that has every intention of causing a riot in a club near you. “Crawl Straight Home” is just as solid, with Day screaming “Hoooome!” in her best Siouxsie Sioux shriek over a quick swing beat and bass so ferocious that you swear a string’s gonna break. Opener “Freaks in Uniforms” adds cheerleader chants worthy of the album’s title performed by the band’s two hired go-go dancers (modeling the latest in straightjacketed cheerleader chic in the album liners), and “It’s Been So Long” adds some well-placed “Whoa-oh"s, always good for uniting a live crowd in a sing-a-long.
It’s toward the latter half of the disc that things really get interesting, however, which is a good thing given that an entire album of fist-pumping high-BPM workouts would get tiring after 12 or 13 songs—some of the tracks toward the middle like “Trapped” and “You vs. Me” feel like lazy genre workouts as it is. “Walk like a Zombie” is the first hint that there’s something different going on, as Ms. Day embraces the camp-goth lyrical themes that her fashion sense implies with a duet with Epitaph Records founder Brett Gurewitz about romance in the cemetary. Oh, and it’s done in a gleefully retro doo-wop style. Successful forays into pop-rock (“Caught in a Blond”) and spaghetti westernisms (“S.O.B.”) follow, all of it with a little bit of tongue-in-cheek smirk and a lot of infectious exuberance.
For a band with as much attitude as Horrorpops would like us to believe they have by way of outlandish fashion sense and the constant assertion of strength and defiance in their lyrics, the album that they have produced has the potential to be quite palatable to the masses. Day’s voice is an amalgam of many of the best qualities of the more recognizable vocalists in rock today (Shirley, Siouxsie, Gwen, Karen, and so on), and the band behind her is skilled enough to settle into a mid-tempo groove or push the tempo to out of control freight train levels. And the pop hooks are sugar-sweet! Horrorpops are a band that could inject the mainstream with a healthy dose of swagger and attitude any day now—perhaps a subtle tweaking of the gothy image and a big name producer are all it will take.