Review: HorrorPops in Montreal, Canada
Grease back your pompadours and fill up the ’57 Chevy as much as current oil prices will allow, because rockabilly punks the HorrorPops are in town at Foufounes Électriques.
Opening for The HorrorPops was St Louis, MI natives 7 Shot Screamers, who handed out an impressive show of rockabilly backed up with punk bravado. Traditionally, I have yet to be really swayed by an opening act, but 7SS were giving the headliners a run for their money.
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Lead vocalist Mike Leahy could sound almost like Morrissey if Morrissey yelled more and refused to stand still on stage, much to this photographer’s consternation. Whether it’s songs about love, lust, or guitarist Deano’s baking skills, Leahy’s voice is somewhere between a croon and a rebel yell, without sounding like pop-punk that you’d find being passed off as “edgy.”
It should be noted that this is a band that is currently serving time as the latest incarnation of The Original Sinners, minus Leahy and fronted by Exene Cervenka, of X fame. Cervenka has had some high praise for the band – it says so on their Wikipedia entry! - which seems to be well-earned. If nothing else, they have inspired me to be less of an asshole who shrugs off opening acts by arriving late to a show. Kudos to them for succeeding in this feat, where so many others have failed.
"Note to fans who scream beyond what any reasonable level of dignity would allow: shut up. If I wanted to set my eardrums a-bleedin’, I’d listen to Guitar Wolf at normal volume levels. "
Next up are The HorrorPops, who have, at this show at least, accumulated one or two Beatles-level screaming fans, making me glad for my seat in the cushy and nearly empty balcony level, not to mention bringing to mind a line from Sloan: “It’s not the band I hate / It’s their fans.” Note to fans who scream beyond what any reasonable level of dignity would allow: shut up. A simple, heartfelt, drunken “woo” will suffice. Is someone sawing off one of your limbs? No? Then WTF. If I wanted to set my eardrums a-bleedin’, I’d listen to Guitar Wolf at normal volume levels. Thank you.
Beyond that, their set was a mix of sassy one-liners and hamming up the B-movie vixen style in between solidly-played rockabilly, ska and punk numbers. Lead vox and player of the stand-up bass Patricia Day more than fills the night’s quota for sass, whether it’s extolling the virtues of virgins (“They’re easy to mold”) or roughly chiding the crowd to “Fucking MOVE” when the band launches into a trio of ska songs. A clear crowd favorite is Missfit, (one of the aforementioned ska tracks) which cleverly breaks into their own brief version of the refrain from Madness’ Our House: “My fist / in the middle of your face / My fist…”. Should I ever be sucked into a timewarp that lands me back in the middle of my grade eight lunchroom, this song will be playing in the background.
Speaking of traumatic teenage memories, I’ll be honest, they would have won me over with their full-out diss of teeny-boppers reliving the horror that was 80’s hair metal in Heading for the Disco – “Trying so hard to be old-school / But, goddamn Poison was never cool” – really, it shouldn’t need to be said, but I’m glad it was.
For a band that trades so heavily in the rockabilly genre motif of fifties B-movies and punk-rock vixen style, they could easily end up pigeonholing themselves; but style never outpaces substance, and they manage to keep their sound going by trading rockbilly for ska, punk, and dark, almost gothy numbers. The songs rarely slow down, and are more than enough to keep a crowd on its toes, although the occasional mocking bark of encouragement coupled by a swig of Jäger - a bottle of which found a permanent home onstage - seems to help.
By the encore of Psychobitches from Hell, I’m not leaving the show disappointed that it’s only 9 PM and it’s not even a school night, but with a song about why neon spandex is a nightmare best left unlived stuck in my head. Awesome.
© Elizabeth Keith
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