Wild Mercury Sound

Rocket From The Crypt: "RIP"

John Mulvey

I mentioned last week that John ‘Speedo’ Reis had a new band, The Night Marchers, who sound pretty great on Myspace. This week, a new album by his most famous old band, Rocket From The Crypt, has turned up; a live set that reminds me many of the best gigs I saw in the mid to late ‘90s were played by this awesome band.

“RIP” is a recording of Rocket’s last gig, on Halloween 2005 in their hometown, “the small fishing village of San Diego”, as Speedo puts it in the sleevenotes. Most of the tunes that briefly got them near the UK charts – and harvested a few dumb comparisons with Showaddywaddy, Sha Na Na and so on – are nowhere near this set. Instead, the focus is on that intense, punchy brand of soul-powered punk rock’n’roll, delivered with theatrical flourishes and fiercely drilled hardcore velocity.

I remember being on the road in Germany and Holland with the band in 1996, I think, and talking a lot about how much I loved Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Rocket reminded me of a Dexy’s grown up on American underground punk, with the military discipline, the raging horns, the non-stop intensity – leavened here, of course, by the compellingly well-adjusted and droll Speedo, who briefly claims to have invented rock’n’roll during the course of the show. You can almost believe him, too.

Anyway, my point: none of them had ever heard Dexy’s, and I recall a later conversation with the band after they’d checked them out. They were, if memory serves, nonplussed. Back then, they were heading round Europe playing this incredibly incendiary rock’n’roll with matching quaffs and bowling shirts, literally breathing fire onstage, soaking up the best in European nightlife and, I think, listening to the High Llamas on their bus.

Parts of “RIP” could’ve come straight from those gigs, particularly the “State Of Art Is On Fire” section (“Light Me” and “A+ In Arson Class”) ploughing straight into the overdriven Antmusic rumble of “Middle”. I could whinge about the absence of personal favourites like “UFO UFO” and “Glazed”, but isn’t that always the way?

The point is, “RIP” reminds me why Rocket From The Crypt are one of the greatest bands I’ve ever written about (and got on the cover of NME, too; there was a heated editorial meeting about the comparative merits of Babylon Zoo, I remember). I wonder if it makes sense to people who never saw the shows?


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