ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT Scream, Dracula, Scream! (Headhunter)

Kev and I seem to review the same band about as frequently as Kerrang and the NME do, but in this case let us gather together once again and praise Rocket From The Crypt, for they are truly something genre-bendingly special. "Scream, Dracula, Scream!" is their fourth proper album, and its already drawn comparison with the likes of Dexys Midnight Runners (that’d be the "Geno" version, not the "Come On Eileen" model, I suspect), The Clash, Teardrop Explodes and Stax soul revues. Add in a touch of rockabilly, the infamous matching suits, a sweaty nightclub’s worth of distortion and singer (or ‘murder by voice’)/guitarist/spokesman Speedo’s knack for a creative quip and you’ve pretty much got RFTC.

"Originally both sides of this album consisted of one cohesive body of music. Silence between songs was replaced with lush string arrangements & triumphant woodwind & brass passages. In doing this we were able to create a true little symphony for kids...but under increasing demands to compete with current industry standards, the master tapes were literally cut and then edited into digestible pieces". Hmmm. Whether you believe their Brian Wilson/Phil Spector-esque ambitions or not, a good few of the ‘digestible pieces’ that remain are pretty remarkable, none more so than recent single "Born In ‘69" the kind of take-no-prisoners statement of intent that brings back pleasant memories of the likes of Gallon Drunk’s "Some Fools Mess" or Hüsker Dü’s "In A Free Land", for example. "Misbeaten" is the sort of dopey psychedelia Spinal Tap used to be so good at, while "Used" is laced with almost Zappa-esque doo-wop (without the harmonies, naturally). Full marks too for the unusually subtle turn of melody towards the end of closer "Burnt Alive".

It’d be nice (well, near miraculous actually) if the rest of the album were as good, but combined with the rather ‘basic’ production (there are accordions, hammond organs and strings in there somewhere, but you’ve got to be concentrating exceptionally hard to find them) and less-than-audiophile pressing overexposure can result in a bit of a bludgeoning, but for those times when "you can relate to our desire to rock and roll" "Scream, Dracula, Scream!" is the ideal prescription.

ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT Circa, Now! (Headhunter)

Something of a minor revelation, Rocket From The Crypt’s second album, originally released in 1992, is bathed in a gently psychedelic glow, from the cover photograph to the “I Am The Walrus”-aping chant of “Everybody Smoke Pot” that closes “Glazed”. There’s so much more variety here than can be found on the album that propelled them, briefly, into the mainstream and onto “Top Of The Pops”, “Scream, Dracula, Scream!”.

Alternative but inclusive, “Circa, Now!” drips with tunes and ideas, delivered by a band that sound like a loose yet disciplined collision between Dead Kennedys and “Geno”-era Dexys Midnight Runners. “Short Lip Fuser” is sludgy enough to step on Kyuss’ medicated toes and “Ditch Digger” has a chorus that sounds like a monolith falling down a flight of stairs in slow motion. “Don’t Darlene” is a “Negative Creep”-pitched assault with added brassy blare, “Hairball Alley” is like a fuzzier, rocking Pavement. Well, sort of.  Even at their most unreconstructed and punkish (“Killy Kill”) there’s a sense of fairground novelty that sets them apart from the more didactic examples of the breed. “Little Arm” is near-jazzy, landscaped with liquid pools of guitar, and the aforementioned eight minutes of “Glazed” brings the album to a shuddering conclusion, ending with an ear-syringing test tone.

If you felt that, for all its deserved success, “Scream, Dracula, Scream!”’s content was one step behind its hype, “Circa, Now!” shows what Speedo’s crew were truly capable of before they became locked in routines and the routine.