Dead TransmissionBomber Music
By Cole Faulkner
The term punk n’ roll and punkabilly commonly gets thrown around when a psychobilly band ventures further from the expected bass-thumping, ghoul-time boogie while maintaining an unorthodox approach that can’t be confused for traditional rockabilly. It’s a tough middle ground to break into without coming across as a watered down version of The Cramps, but those with enough energy and vision can pull it off – as per personal favourite The Living End.
Which leads to another emerging name: South Wales trio Graveyard Johnnys. Known for their rambunctious stage presence and full throttle approach to songwriting, their penmanship makes for a vigorous listen that stays true to form but doesn’t hesitate to veer from the pack. With their latest full length, Dead Transmission, fans of punk and psychobilly should be quick to recognize their budding reputation.
At their core, the band delivers all the adrenaline of your typical upright bass slapping outfit. Songs like hip-shaking 50’s showpieces “Because Of You” infuse rockabilly rhythm with vibrant distortion, driving tunes into memory with hand clapping vigor and 50’s dance floor scuffle. The general formula amps up for open road thumpers like “Ready To Roll,” and settles down for more casual, acoustic laced country twanged rumblers like “One Day Forever.” Such examples serve as the backbone of a well-oiled punkabilly machine. But their true potential stems from their a host of “extras,” infusing fresh ideas into classic sounds.
Moments like the title track subtly draw on rhythmic guitars reminiscent of modern artists like The Strokes in beat and tempo, but blend admirably into the punkabilly framework. For instance “Little Witch” throws in dirty and fuzzed out Hot Hot Heat-esque vocals across a blanket of rumbling rock n’ roll riffs. Combined with an intermittently surfacing organ, the resulting bridge really pops. When Graveyard Johnnys take chances, the result typically does just that. Diverging from the genre’s typically menacing themes, “Mothers” unravels as a charming acoustic-heavy track with heartfelt lyrics that could double as a mother’s day card. On a reflective and more serious note, the band honors their maternal link: “this one’s for our mothers, the girls that set us free, the only people in the world who let us be who we wanted to be, who took us seriously.” It’s highly unorthodox but stands tall late in the track listing.
Graveyard Johnnys will likely garner initial comparisons with countrymen The Grit, but before long stand much further apart from the crowd. At its core, Dead Transmission is a rock solid punk n’ roll record with plenty of tricks of its sleeve. While still far from revolutionary, Graveyard Johnnys inject their own dose of high octane thrills across a refreshingly broad canvas of made-for-the-stage tunes.