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In the very derivative world of horror rock, a band
following the twangy template laid down by The Cramps deserves a little more
attention than the scores of Misfits clones rolling off the conveyor belt on a
daily basis. Psycho Charger is just such a group, and they go a step further by
adding rumbling layers of industrial grind to the slithering bass lines and
rockabilly attitude as gleaned from the Cramps’ late, lamented Lux Interior.
Their sound will be instant comfort food to listeners who
miss the mid-’90s—an era when songs featuring pulsating beats, sinister guitars
and distorted vocals sounding like they’re being sung through a baby monitor
ruled the clubs and the charts. And with their latest release MARK OF THE
PSYCHO, Psycho Charger stays the course set by their previous albums.
Lyrically, Psycho Charger continue to be mired in the trashy
redneck milieu so beloved by Rob Zombie (the filmmaker, at least); the track
“Psycho Death Machine” is a dark ode to a chemically assisted long-haul trucker
and his 18-wheeled chariot, while another tune pays tribute to
moonshine-brewing zombies who sport “stains in their underwear.” The music
matches this lyrical tack, and a jaw harp even makes a cornpone appearance on
one song. It’s all dumb, inoffensive fun upon first listen, but can feel more
and more juvenile on subsequent spins. On paper, the conceit behind the track
“Blood!!! Shock!!! Kill!!! Rock!!!” sounds insufferably insipid, singer Jimmy
Psycho simply rhyming a list of horror-movie titles over one of the band’s
typically swampy grooves. Surprisingly, it works. Chalk this success up to
Psycho sounding off on such obscure cult favorites as SATAN’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS
and PUMPKINHEAD. Fango fans are guaranteed to crack a grin whenever a dusty old
favorite gets name-checked throughout the song.
The album does run out of steam about midway through and
starts to get repetitive, but it’s buoyed toward the end by an inspired cover
of Johnny Cash’s “Wanted Man” (penned by Bob Dylan). This is the standout
moment on MARK OF THE PSYCHO, as a head-knocking beat and growled verses
rejuvenate a classic from the Man in Black. More like this in the future,
MARK OF THE PSYCHO is a solid entry that doesn’t break much
new ground for the band, but won’t alienate any longtime fans either. It could
trim down by about three songs without losing any momentum, but a little
playlist editing solves that easily enough. And for the undecided out there, if
you’ve ever sat and wondered just what Ministry would sound like playing Duane
Eddy songs, Psycho Charger will have you wondering no more.
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