Zombina & The Skeletones – Charnel House Rock
by Joey Dussault (Journalism), published March 3rd 2014
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Zombina & the Skeletones’ latest is a departure from the band’s Misfits-meet-the-Platters balancing act. The Liverpudlian horror-punk outfit takes on a decidedly Western tone on Charnel House Rock, and the juxtaposition of country twang with surf rock vibes is a strange but satisfying combination. Charnel House sees the Skeletones perfecting their rockabilly sub-genre, due largely to X-Ray Speck’s increased presence on the bari sax.
Charnel House wastes no time with intros and interludes. The album starts with an almost-literal bang, firing off a barrage of loud, compact psychobilly energy. However, this is a false start of sorts for an album that doesn’t crank out anything especially memorable until primary single “How to Make a Monster” comes blaring five songs in. Zombina waxes Glenn Danzig quite impressively on “Walk with Me,” but the real gems come later.
While cutesy-but-creepy tracks like “The Negative Zone” call to mind earlier offerings in Zombina’s catalogue — think the Ronettes, raised from the dead and fronted by PJ Harvey — the album is an overall stylistic departure for the group. “Don’t Go into the Light” is a doom-tinged, desert-weathered punk jam — Zombina’s answer to the Shangri-Las, Jim Steinman and the ‘teenage tragedy song.’ The latter part of the record takes this trend a step further, where fiddles and acoustic guitars underscore Doc Horror’s lamenting. The intentionally dusty production on “Unspeakable Things” and “City of Ghosts” furthers this narrative goal, but at the expense of making the tracks sound a little out of place. Still, diversity is always preferable to redundancy, and Charnel House Rock excels for that reason.
Make no mistake; Zombina is no lyrical James Mercer or Stephen Malkmus, nor is Doc Horror a match for Andrew Bird or Joanna Newsom in terms of technicality in composition. Meticulous production akin to The Knife is absent from Charnel House too. Having said so, analyzing Charnel House Rock under a Pitchfork-ian lens would be pointless and boring anyway. This album favors aggression and pulpy narrative over subtlety and virtuosity. Approach Charnel House with the same attitude you might have about a movie called “Attack of the Crab Monsters.” It may require you to abandon your “finer” tastes, but the effort pays off in the long run.
Recommended Tracks: “The Negative Zone,” ”Don’t Go into the Light,” ”City of Ghosts”