Murder Ride (CD)
Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
The Punk Rods - Visit The Punk Rods on MySpace
Produced by Rob Schultz and 1313
I was sitting down to write this review, trying to think of an opening line. One that would refer back to punk's roots, or that would draw a similarity between this sound and another, or even one that would reference 80's comedian Bob "Bobcat" Goldthwait. Everything I came up with smacked of pretentious stupidity and came off as an injustice to the album I'm trying to review. Bearing that in mind, I should probably just state the main point without trying to cute it up: The Punk Rods' Murder Ride kicks serious ass. There. I said it.
The Punk Rods is an Ohio-based quartet with a knack for writing catchy horror-themed tunes. Consisting of gentlemen with names like "Evil Ed" (guitar), E.C. Gains (vocals), "1313" (drums), and the curiously non-stage-named "Rob" (bass), the band puts out tunes that shout out to movies about slashers, vampires, surf-zombies, and even an homage to DC favorite, Karen Cooper. What sets them apart from many, if not most, independent punk bands is their musical ability. Where some have "that guy who thinks he can sing" or are dominated by off-beat drums, The Punk Rods seem to be the exception to the rule, weaving their music in a way that makes them sound like veterans. From the mix to the tight vocals to the infectious guitar playing, the album sounds better than many studio albums to have come out in many years.
Beginning with "I, Robot," the group's homage to Asimov, the album jumps to high gear and doesn't let up. While most of the songs clock in at under two minutes in length, they still pack mosh-worthy punch in a small amount of time. Even so, the band manages to through multiple styles together, and makes them fit somehow. "Grave Baby" sounds like a straight forward slammer, while "Scream Scream Scream" has a jazzy beat with a punk soul. There are many textures on this album's twelve songs, but all of them keep two things: The crashing soul and the undeniable musicality.
While there are no "weak" songs on the album, a few are stand-outs. "Graveyard Stomp" is one that will make most anyone wag their heads and butts in time with the music. "Calling," a tender tale of a girl run down by a speeding car, hearkens back to (believe it or not) Sha-Na-Na, in that listeners can picture the band members with pompador's and leather jackets singing it. Possibly the best song on the album is "The Ballad of Karen Cooper," which is everything its name implies. Fast and furious, "Surf Zombies" is quirky, funny, and a blast to drive to. Still, it's the seven-second ditty "Slasher" that'll make horror fans laugh out loud.
While the album is a strong first offering, there is only one drawback that I could see, and it comes from the length of the songs. Half of the album's twelve songs clock in at under two minutes, and only two break the three minute mark. Not that there's anything wrong with brevity, it's just that, for this album, if feels like the groove just gets moving and the song is over, leaving the listener wondering what happened.
Stylistically, listeners can hear influences from all over the punk pantheon. From the Misfits to the Ramones, The Stooges to The Sex Pistols, the influence is there and melded into something wholly its own. In total, it is a fantastic debut album. For more information about the band, you can visit their MySpace page or you can look to their shop page to pick up a copy of the album.
1. I, Robot
2. Grave Baby
3. Scream, Scream, Scream
4. Wish You Hell
5. Vampires of the Atom Age
6. Graveyard Stomp
7. Nail 'Em All
10. The Ballad of Karen Cooper
11. Surf Zombies
4 out of 5
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