and new box sets from
What is psychobilly?
Wikipedia says: “Psychobilly is a fusion genre of rock music that mixes elements of punk rock, rockabilly, and other genres. It is one of several subgenres of rockabilly which also include thrashabilly, punkabilly, surfabilly and gothabilly.”
SPAZ says: “The rockabilly cats were the cool dudes surrounded by hot chicks, drinking brews and playing pool. The psychobilly guys were in the parking lot sniffing glue while stripping the rockabilly cats’ hot rods and chasing prostitutes down the alley.”
Psychobilly is a lot more frightening than rough and raw rockabilly, but is certainly not as threatening as hardcore punk. Then again, if your idea of real rockabilly is The Stray Cats, then perhaps psychobilly might actually scare you just a wee bit – and make your bits wee in the process! If psychobilly was around in the ‘50s, it would have made Elvis seem as threatening as Beaver Cleaver.
Psychobilly is dark, but not gothic. It is loud, but not deafening. It is mean, but not cruel. It is rock ‘n’ roll, but it rocks more than it rolls. While many psychobilly bands like to play up the ‘psycho’ part of the genre’s name, it is essentially garage rock-influenced rockabilly - a style with no set rules, which has allowed many bands to add lyrics that lean towards horror, sci-fi and absurdity. In essence, they are bullies with a sense of humor.
Psychobilly became a prominent movement in the UK in the early part of the ‘80s. While The Stray Cats brought rockabilly to the upper reaches of the charts, punk kids embraced the rockabilly scene, turning the heat up a bit and giving birth to a dirtier version of ‘billy music. Informed by the wild swing of rock and the aggression of punk, psychobilly swept the underground, eventually spreading into the rest of Europe. There may have been mini scenes in America and elsewhere, but it never took hold beyond a handful of big cities. But at least we had The Cramps, right? They are the closest thing that America had to psychobilly.
Two of the finest British psychobilly bands dating back to the genre’s dominance in the ‘80s were The Meteors and Guana Batz. The Meteors are now referred to as the leaders of the psychobilly movement and rightfully so. Guana Batz are held in equal high-esteem and would surely snatch the crown from The Meteors’ head if given half the chance. Both bands personify the spirit of the genre, filling their albums with energetic, sweaty performances that were unmatched by their contemporaries. To this day, when someone talks about the genre, both bands are always mentioned. Thankfully, anyone that missed their albums 30 years ago now has an opportunity to play catch up with two excellent box sets from Cherry Red Records.
The Meteors’ Five Classic Studio Albums set contains five CDs packaged in mini LP sleeves, all housed in a cool clamshell box with a booklet. The albums featured are Stampede (+ 4 bonus tracks), Monkey’s Breath (+ three bonus tracks), Sewertime Blues (+ one bonus track), Don’t Touch The Bang Bang Fruit (+ four bonus tracks) and The Mutant Monkey And The Surfers From Zorch (+ bonus track). This is marvelous stuff from the band that really started it all.
The Guana Batz box, Original Albums And Peel Sessions Collection, contain four CDs, again in mini LP sleeves housed in a clamshell box plus booklet. Each of the three albums included – Held Down To Vinyl…At Last, Loan Sharks and Rough Edges – all include bonus Peel Sessions. The fourth disc - Electra Glide In Blue – is devoted entirely to a Peel Session from 1985. For a band this good, it’s hard to fathom why some folks refer to them as the second best psychobilly band behind The Meteors. However, that IS quite the compliment!
So, if those don’t get your motor runnin’, your blood boilin’, and the veins in your head poppin’ through the skin, then you’re probably a fully functioning corpse. Hmmm. I can think of a few psychobilly bands that might want to turn that last sentence into a song…
Five Classic Studio Albums
Original Albums And Peel Sessions Collection