Stolen TransmissionGrade: ****
The ante has been upped considerably in scary movies. From Asia's shock-horror tension and torture tactics to the limb-carving dismemberment of the "Saw" trilogy, it's going to take more than frantic vocals and spooky organ music to inspire any sense of dread among the de-sensitized.
And yet, the Horrors try. Oh, how they try.
Goth in look, but with a sound that swerves from psych-addled garage rock to dark, Misfits-style punk and stiletto-sharp surf music, the Horrors come off as theatrical, psycho-billy dandies, but there's no denying that Strange House is a thrill-ride from start to finish.
"Draw Japan" links Link Wray to Bauhaus with growling bass lines, frantic vocals, creepy keyboards and tense, taut guitar riffs, while "Gloves" somehow pairs off careening riffs, spaghetti-western guitar and slash-and-burn organ movements in a song about escaping the clutches of a serial killer without a conscience.
But after the distorted menace of "Jack The Ripper," Strange House's feedback scratched opener, everything else is a bit of a letdown. It's not that the rest of the material fails to shake your foundations, but it's tough to come down from that high.
Sheets of distortion rain down on thick, muscular bass that snakes out of the Clash's "Brand New Cadillac" like a python, and then a frenzied guitar riot erupts. It's the aural equivalent of pouring blood into the shark tank. The rest of Strange House is raw meat, high in rock noise, protein and energy, and mascara.
And it's cool because it's unusual and has a vintage quality, and, admittedly, a little frightening and giving off a dangerous, "please don't kill me" vibe. Weird, failed experiments like "Gil Sleeping" aside, Strange House is tough, mind-melting rock 'n' roll, with crazed, epileptic fits like "Sheena Is A Parasite" knocking heads with tough, downbeat grooves like those of "Thunderclaps."
This house is not going to be condemned.