REVIEW: Cult of the Psychic Fetus - "She Devil"

By Chris Eissing

Chain Border

She DevilSo you're stuck on a road trip with Grandma. She likes the good old Sha-Na-Na cruising music from the 50's. You like the dark stylings of Goth where the moods are bleak and the bodies are cold. Normally this would be an 800 mile equivalent of repeated blows to your temple with a 9-iron. A buzzkill on par with a stake through the heart. But never fear! Cult of the Psychic Fetus is here! Proof positive you can put the groovy back in ghoulies.

She-Devil is as complete an album as could be made for a band whose style floats in the nebulous grey region between goth-a-billy and surf-goth. If that doesn't pique your interest, let's look a little deeper into the terms 'goth-a-billy' and 'surf-goth.' Goth-a-billy, rock-a-billy, punk-a-billy, and anything-a-billy you can think of comes from one general place. Hillbilly rock of the early-50s. Back then they tried to dress-down the sound of white artists doing black music by adding a hillbilly backbeat; making it a hybrid of guitar-rock blues, and two-steppin country.

Imagine this sound, popularized in the road-houses, gin joints, and honky-tonks throughout the south and Midwest, who's heroes include John Lee Hooker, Les Paul and George Thoroughgood, who has influenced the entire classic-rock generation's music, right down to the beards of ZZ Top. Imagine this sound is adopted by bald pallid men wearing black eyeliner, vinyl shirts, and lipstick. If you don't find that intriguing enough I suggest you get back to the Grease marathon on TNT and practice your YMCA for the club Friday night.

Coming out of rock-a-billy was the surf music of the 50's. Long before the left coast Beach Boys brought harmony and do-wop to a bleached blond California culture there was beach music. The unmistakeable um-da-da um-da-da rhythm most easily recalled from classic drum-busters like Wipe Out. So if the thought of a classically Goth band donning a sound popularized by muscle cruising cars and hillbilly blues isn't amusing enough, imagine one on a surf board.

She Devil runs the gamut of rock-a-billy inspired styling. Don't Look in the Basement is classic surf, updated to appeal to your average coffin-sleeping denizen of the dark. Dream Speed evokes a dark afterworld where James Dean still plays a nightly game of chicken to suicidal goth-billy-rhythms. What can I say but "Cannibal Girls all taste the best." And finally, in a song that is also their namesake, we learn what the Cult of the Psychic Fetus is. It's one of the strongest and more daring songs on the album.

If one of this Band's songs was in a movie, what would it be? I see Cult of the Psychic Fetus's song HateKill in the alternate ending to The Breakfast Club. The ending where Michael Anthony Hall realizes that he was duped into doing the assignment so everyone else can go do the Brat Pack Horizontal Mambo. And once he gives into the voices that keep repeating "you know they're laughing at you," he decides against going Columbine and paints his eyes black with the ashes of his straight-A report card, forms a band, buys a hearse and this movie becomes Marilyn Manson's Velvet Underground.

The sound is crystal clear, and the guitar stylings fit the songs and the style perfectly. The problem with any 'a-billy' style is that it's limited by its strict form. Strict 1-4-5 blues riffs and arrangement with a straight-up rock beat makes the style easily recognizable. But Cult of the Psychic Fetus pulls it off. It is reminiscent of the Reverand Horton Heat in the way it uses a classic style to create gloomy giddiness. But however seductive Cult may be in getting you to give up their soul, they lack Heat's down-right Satanic playing.

For whatever they lack in soul-sold virtuosity the likes of Paganini or Charlie Parker, they make up for with absolutely solid, clean and well-arranged songs with impeccable crafted sounds. However, there is enough variety on this album to get it to hold its own on your tape rack. It may be purchased for its novelty factor, but it will stay there for its sheer ability to entertain.

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